A Relaxed Approach to Holiday Stress Relief

At this time of year, it’s far too easy to get caught-up in decking the halls, planning amazing holiday meals and finding the perfect gift for your loved ones.

Toss in more traffic, last minute projects at work and time with frazzled family and friends and you’ve got a recipe for stress. Keep that going long enough and you’ll be like that over-baked bunch of gingerbread folks I tossed out for the birds to enjoy (burnt out).

While it’s wise to spend time each day reflecting on what this time of year is truly about – friends, family members and other blessings – I also think we need to commit to taking care of ourselves this holiday season.

Yes, this can be a radical concept for some of us who are used to putting our own needs at the bottom of the wish list. But, taking a few moments each day to nourish your body, mind and spirit will allow you to have a more enjoyable holiday. Your good cheer is sure to spread among family, friends and coworkers, as well as help you deal with any of those Grinch-like folks milling about this season.

This doesn’t have to be terribly complicated. Most of us are aware a good diet and a supplement can help. On top of that, the things I’m suggesting may be as simple as joining a friend for shopping and coffee/tea to catch-up (what an amazing gift that would be); reading a bedtime story to your children; enjoying a glass of wine while reading a magazine or book.

Here are some additional stress-less activities to help you enjoy this holiday season :

  • BREATHE! This seems obvious, but so few of us do this well when we’re stressed. Typically, we chest/shallow breathe. Here, I’m suggesting some deep breathing to really clear the body, mind and spirit. Breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of six and release to a count of eight. Do this a few times and you’ll realize you feel lighter and brighter.
  • Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Don’t laugh, it’s what experts agree is best. Of course, they probably aren’t living with your dog, snoring spouse or fussy infant. Just do the best you can!
  • Wake-up 5 to 15 minutes earlier each morning and to the edge off the morning rush. You’ll relax a bit knowing you’ve got those extra moments to enjoy a cup of tea, comb your hair or pack a healthy lunch.
  • Aim for 8 glasses of water a day, filtered if possible. We often mistake dehydration for hunger so always have a glass of water first. Then, wait a few minutes before enjoying that cutout cookie. Dehydration can also leave you feeling tired and irritable.
  • Add some greens and high quality protein to your diet. I know that Santa supposedly lives off of cookies, but outside of the North Pole, this just isn’t the best idea. To ensure a healthy immune system and to stave off those energy/mood swings, aim for 4-5 small, balanced meals a day. That way you won’t feel compelled to binge on chocolate truffles, or need more caffeine to get through the afternoon.
  • Take a nature break. Research has proven that we get a natural lift from being outdoors. So, when you’re feeling stressed, talk a walk. Even five-minutes of time in nature has been proven to boost our immune system and enhance our mood.
  • Play! Whether or not you have kids, the holidays are a perfect time to express the child inside us all. For some, this can be baking and decorating cookies, for others it may be sledding or a trip to the beach. I enjoy relaxing with a dark chocolate coco to a classic holiday movie!
  • Enjoy your favorite music. Do this in the car, while cleaning the house, wrapping holiday gifts,  and cooking/baking. Music can help soothe even the grinchiest of Grinches. So, turn up the tunes and have some fun (see Play).
  • Take at least 5 minutes each day to reflect on the true meaning of the holidays. It’s so easy to get caught up in the gift-giving-game that we forget that this is season is truly about sharing time with loved ones. While you may enjoy a great gift, you will treasure all those memory-making moments of laughter and love.
  • End each day by counting your blessings. What we think about multiples. So, end each day by giving thanks for 5 people, places, events or things that you experienced in the day. As Bing Crosby crooned in the classic movie White Christmas, “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings.”