The holiday season has arrived! For some, the season rings of sentimentality, joy and family tradition. For others, not so much. Folks who are lonely, dealing with health issues or struggling financially, often feel worse this time of year.
According to the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people report a noticeable increase in stress during the holidays. Lack of time, living up to the hype, and pressures associated with gift giving are at the top of the list of stressors. Perceived responsibilities to create a joyful experience for family adds to holiday stress with half of men (49%) and women (51%) reporting pressure to make sure family members are happy.
Thankfully, there are some simple techniques you can use to lower your stress level and stay healthy this holiday season. To help keep the “Happy” in your holidays, here’s what to know.
- Just Say NO
When the holiday invitations start rolling in, saying “yes” to them all can create feelings of overwhelm, resentment and anxiety. Even the gatherings that sound like fun ahead of time can end up compounding your stress when you suddenly find yourself with too many things to do and not enough time to get it all done. Accepting the invitations you find most appealing and kindly saying “No” to the rest will help you keep your peace and joy.
The constant connectivity to our screens can make it difficult for our brain to slow down and allow us to relax. Try choosing one day a week to turn off your devices. Ignore those emails and spend your unplugged time on a fun project, a relaxing walk, cooking a yummy meal for friends and family, or reading a great book.
- Acknowledge your Stress
Trying to suppress stress just causes the pressure to mount. By acknowledging and expressing those feelings in a healthy way, you can transform the negative to a positive. Focus on a good outcome AND acknowledge the stress simultaneously. For example, “I feel exhausted and overwhelmed by all I have to do but I am so excited about all the people coming to our holiday dinner”.
- Do something nice for someone
In the midst of all the parties and shopping, take time for small acts of kindness — you’ll be glad you did! Studies have shown that both you and the recipient of your kindness experience reduced stress and improved emotional well-being. Acts of kindness can be as simple as paying a compliment, holding a door open, or expressing gratitude toward someone you appreciate.
- Walk it Off
A brisk, walk provides a repetitive rhythm that soothes your brain, relieves anxiety and helps you sleep. The busier things become, the more important it is to make time for physical activity. A short walk can be done anywhere at any time and can make a big difference in your mental health. Breathe in the fresh air and the sites and sounds of life around you – it’s like pressing the Reset button!
- Laugh Often
Laughter reduces stress hormones AND boosts your immune system. Keep your sense of humor as much as possible during the holiday rush and laugh whenever you get the chance.
- Let it Go
With the holidays constantly romanticized on TV and social media, there’s a lot of pressure to make them perfect. Over the years, traditions and family can multiply, leading to even more preparation and less time for decompressing. Realistically, you cannot do it all — and that’s okay. Choose a few things that matter most to you and let the rest go, guilt-free.
- Maintain your Routine
When our schedules become too crowded, routines are often the first thing to go. During stressful times, healthy eating, staying active, and getting a good night’s sleep are more important than ever. Maintaining your morning ritual, that daily workout, and your wake/sleep schedule will ease the load on your physical and menta/emotional bodies. Nobody likes a grumpy holiday guest!
- Add a Little Citrus
Researchers have discovered that the citrus scents of lemon and orange can increase your levels of the mood-influencing hormone norepinephrine, which amplifies feelings of well-being. Citrus-scented soaps, essential oils, or simmering a mixture of lemons, cloves, and rosemary on the stovetop can make a big difference when you find yourself feeling tense.
- Don’t Do it Alone
Even though you may feel that no one can do it as well as you can, you’ll experience more joy if you start delegating or asking for help. It is often one of the most empowering things you can do and can go a long way toward relieving stress. You don’t have to do it all!Slowing down to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa (add the marshmallow), watch a holiday movie or make a call to a loved one can go a long way to help make the holidays feel merry and bright!