10 Ways To Keep Holiday Stress At Bay

You look forward to the holidays every year. You are going to enjoy taking time off from work, and making wonderful memories with friends, family and loved ones. At least, that’s the plan. Unfortunately, as you are probably well too aware, the holiday season can be full of stress, anxiety and other negative emotions.

This is because people get caught up in the holiday process. They worry that their decorations and clothing must be perfect. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners absolutely must be the best ever, each piece of food or dessert flavorful, delicious and mistake-free. There are cards to mail, gifts to buy, vacations to plan and children to ferry about here and there. All of these considerations can lead to anything but an enjoyable holiday season.

If you want this holiday season to be panic attack-free, there are a few things you can do to remove stress from the holidays. The following 10 ideas promise a peaceful, stress-free good time during your next holiday celebration.

1) Exercise

Several things happen when you exercise. Many physiological processes take place, one of which is a boost to your brain’s pleasure center. The age-old “fight or flight” process begins when your body detects stress. Physical stress from exercise means that your senses are heightened as well.

Feel-good chemicals in your brain are then released, rewarding you with clarity, focus and fewer feelings of stress and anxiety.

An added holiday benefit of exercise regards your waistline. Many people throw their diets out of the window when the holiday season rolls around. Exercising regularly allows you to “cheat”, eating delicious sweets and treats without packing on the pounds. That’s enough by itself to keep you happy and stress-free throughout the holidays.

2) Don’t Expect Perfection

David D. Burns is the celebrated author of the best-selling book “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy”. He is also Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Here’s what he has to say about perfection …

“Perfection is man’s ultimate illusion. It simply does not exist in the universe. If you are a perfectionist, you are guaranteed to be a loser in whatever you do.”

Pretty strong words, but it gets the point across perfectly. Aim for success, not perfection, when planning your holiday get-togethers. This will reduce your stress and allow you to see the true rewards of the holiday season.

3) Enjoy a Little Sunshine

Here is the part that the sun plays in reducing stress and anxiety. When your skin senses the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, it begins a remarkable process in your body. In response to direct sunlight on your skin, you begin to produce healthy levels of vitamin D.

Only 10 to 20 minutes of direct exposure to the sun’s rays on your skin each day creates all the vitamin D your body needs. Since most foods do not deliver very much vitamin D, this is a simple way to ensure you get enough of this important vitamin. As it turns out, vitamin D and the feel of the sun on your skin are peace boosters and anxiety busters.

4) Sniff Some Citrus

Need an instant pick-me-up? Battling stressful holiday preparations? Why not let the power of your nose sniff you back to stress-free peace? Citrus smells have been used for centuries to alleviate anxiety and stress, while boosting your feeling of well-being.

Some citrus fragrances (like the aromas emitted by oranges and lemons) increase your levels of norepinephrine. This is a “feel-good” hormone which picks up your mood and drops your stress levels. You can go simply sniff a slice or wedge of lemon or orange. You can also benefit from an aromatherapy diffuser which disperses lemon or orange essential oils throughout your surrounding atmosphere for hours.

5) Stay Hydrated

You should drink plenty of liquids to help combat stress. Eggnog and adult beverages are prevalent during many holiday celebrations. However, those are not the types of beverages we are referring to here.

The human body needs to ingest approximately 1 gallon of water each day to function properly. Your mind and body are sharp and healthy when you drink enough water on a daily basis. That 1 gallon per day recommendation is a minimum, and includes water present in the foods you eat. When your body is functioning properly, it sends fewer stress signals to your brain.

6) Acupressure Your Stress Away

Did you know there are pressure points located all over body which can deliver very specific emotional and physical health benefits? This is the basis of the ancient Chinese healing art of acupressure. You feel When you feel holiday stress piling on, try this.

Locate the webbing on the back of your hand where your thumb and index finger meet. If you touch the points of your index finger and thumb and flex, a small muscle will bulge, indicating the correct spot. This is called your Hoku Point.

Pressed properly, it can relieve stress, anxiety and even physical pain. Place your thumb on your Hoku Point and your index finger on the palm of your hand, and press firmly. You can hold for a few seconds or a couple of minutes, until you feel your stress subsiding.

7) Be Honest with Yourself

Seriously, will the holidays really be ruined if your snowman cookies don’t turn out perfect? Will your entire celebration be a failure if you burn the Christmas goose? To avoid stress during this very stressful time of year, you need to be honest with yourself about what is really important.

You should focus on the wonderful times and experiences you are having with your loved ones. Bathe in the “now” and stop spending so much of your time and mental energy on upcoming holiday events that have yet to arrive. Do less and enjoy more. No one is guaranteed any amount of time on earth. That’s why you should never miss an opportunity to create and enjoy quality holiday memories.

That means spending more time with your friends and family members, and less time running around like a chicken with your head cut off planning, shopping and decorating. When you are hosting a party, take part in it. Don’t waste your time in the kitchen while all your party-goers are mixing, mingling and having a good time. When you start stressing out about some holiday detail, remind yourself what is truly important at this very important time of year.

8) Learn To Say No

Seasonal holidays are extremely busy times for many people. That means that your friends may be pressed for time, just like you. Many times your time-saving help is requested. Someone may ask you to swing by the dry cleaners and pick up their holiday clothing, bake some cookies for them or even handle their holiday shopping.

The holidays are all about caring and giving. So you may feel that you should spend a lot of your personal time helping your friends and family. That’s fine. You should want to assist the ones you love in any way you can, regardless what time of year it is.

But you must learn to say no in some situations if you are going to minimize the amount of stress in your life. Believe it or not, there are those in your life who understand that you are incapable of saying “no”.

They consciously, and sometimes unconsciously, take advantage of your largess and generosity. Unfortunately, when you spend most of your time helping others rather than helping yourself, your holiday plans can suffer. This naturally leads to anxiety and stress.

9) Plan and Shop All Year Long

Holiday shopping can be very expensive. Financial troubles are one of the leading causes of stress in adults. You also have a limited number of hours in the day.

This means a lot of anxiety rushing around trying to cram all of your required holiday duties into what seems like an impossible time period.

So why not plan and shop for your holiday celebrations all year long?

Keep your eyes open for bargain gift ideas throughout the year.

Purchase holiday wrapping paper in January, right after the holidays are over. This ensures you get a great deal and guarantees you don’t have to settle for whatever happens to be available once the holiday season hits. Plan, shop and prepare for your holidays throughout the year and you will minimize your holiday stress.

10) Give Great Experiences Rather Than Physical Gifts

Many holiday traditions around the world include gift giving. And shopping is often times a fun part of the holidays. But how many more ties does your dad really need? Does mom need (or even want) another Christmas sweater? Physical gifts are fine, but how about giving a memorable experience instead?

Why not purchase a family vacation? Buy tickets for you and your friends to attend an important concert, movie, symphony or opera. Focus on giving wonderful experiences as a gift, rather than a physical gift which is often not appreciated, remembered or even used.

Remember, it’s about the experience and not the process when the holiday season rolls around. This doesn’t mean ignoring traditional holiday preparations like decorating and gift giving. It simply means you should focus on this precious time you have to share with those that mean the most in your life, instead of getting everything “just right”.

The best gift you can give your friends and family during the holidays is a stress-free enjoyment of this special time of year. The above tips help you do exactly that. Happy holidays to you and yours.