10 Tips For Reducing Holiday Stress

November 30, 2012


 Holiday stress. Just typing the words results in my muscles tightening as I think of the seemingly never-ending To-Do List associated with the season. After all my years of education about stress reduction, when it comes to the holidays, you would think I hadn't learned a thing about how to keep stress levels down; I feel like a constant ball of tension these days. Therefore, I'm writing this article as much for myself as for anyone else! Hopefully, we can all use a few of these tips to try to make it through Holiday Season as calmly as possible.
1) Take care of yourself so that you are better able to deal with others (who are also tense and agitated) this season. Take care of yourself in ways that mean something to you. For me, that means locking the door and staying in a completely quiet room for a few minutes with no radio, no TV, no cell phone, no computer. For you, it may be a hot bath, a nap (oh, how I miss the days of taking naps), a massage, a good cry, a therapy session, a chat with a friend you can pour it all out to, or a walk around the block. The most important thing is to remember that you are working hard to maintain your new healthy habits, so relaxing will help you stick with them.
2) Breathing not only does it keep us alive but if done correctly, can be a great physical stress reliever. Here's the way to breathe to calm the body (and mind): Breathe slowly in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth making sure your tummy rises and falls as you breathe, rather than your chest. Do this for at least 12 breaths in a row and you will find yourself relaxing. Really!
3) Use your boundary-setting skills. It's hard to say "no” at times, but doing so will help you manage your stress and your schedule. You do not have to accept every invitation you receive, nor do you have to participate in every gift exchange you are invited to participate in. You don't even have to stop by every family member's house if you don"t want to! Participate in only the events you find enjoyable!
4) Avoid giving food gifts. Part of maintaining your health around food is to stay away from things associated with food obsession. Instead of baking, try making potpourri, soap, or candles for your friends. You may find a new hobby and won't be tempted to indulge in a "nibble here and a nibble there” if you bake.
5) Exercise your spiritual muscles. If you are a spiritual or religious person, the holiday season presents a perfect opportunity for you to devote a few minutes more each day to focusing on the things you are grateful for. This will take your mind off the stressful events that flood the season and will give you a lighter feeling as you go through the day. If you're not particularly spiritual, then focus on your values and make it a point to do something that affirms your life values each day.
6) Call some old friends. Maybe you're not sending out cards for the holidays due to the cost or time involved. Even if you are, reach out to an old friend. Doing so will give you both a boost of joy, which in itself, reduces stress.
7) Make lists. Having the To-Do list swim aimlessly around in your mind causes a lot of physical and mental stress. Get things out of your mind and onto a piece of paper, your computer, your cell phone, or even written on your hand (temporarily, of course)! You can check things off your list as you complete them, which definitely results in stress reduction.
8) Sing! ˜Tis the most certainly the season for music! Turn it on and belt it out! Good for the mind, body, and spirit!
9) Play games with your friends and family. Not mind games as in acting passive-aggressive, but old-fashioned board games like Taboo, Scrabble, and Pictionary. Or play new-fashioned games like Wii and Play Station. Just play and laugh and have some fun!

10) Remember the reason for the season whatever that is for you. Family time, religion, love, laughter, connection, joy, etc. Do take the time to reflect. Your life is a gift. You are a gift. Celebrate!

Feature photo courtesy of christoph_w

connie stapleton


Connie Stapleton, PhD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and owner of Mind Body Health Services. She is the author of Eat It Up - The Complete Mind/Body/Spirit Guide to a Full Life After Weight Loss Surgery.

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