Top 12 Ways to Keep Stress at Bay This Holiday Season

We are smack dab in the middle of the holidays. For some, it’s a time of joy, sharing, giving, and connection. For others, it’s a difficult time with painful or sad memories. No matter what your experience, there’s bound to be something that gets under your skin. ‘Tis the season for stress to surface, tempers to flare, feelings to get hurt, and overwhelm to abound.

To help you ease any unwanted tension associated with this time of year, I’ve compiled a list of 10 of my favorite ways you can take good care of yourself during the holiday season (and beyond). Enjoy!

  1. Be Consistent: During this time many of us have time off from work and the regular routines we practice most days of the year. While getting a break from the mundane day-to-day of our lives can be a blessing, it can also upset some sort of balance we’ve already put in place. By all means, enjoy some less structured time, but be mindful of how straying too far from things like regular sleep times, meal times, and household routines can affect getting back to those routines when the time comes. Be as consistent as possible while also giving yourself a well-deserved break.
  2. Think Before You Speak: When others say and do things that “push your buttons” you may find yourself going on auto-pilot and just blurting out what you really think. But when emotions are running high, what comes out of our mouths is rarely what we really mean to say. Do yourself a favor and take some time to think before you speak. If needed, leave the situation, go into another room, hang up the phone, or summon every bit of self control you have to keep yourself from saying something you may regret later.
  3. Ask for Help: There’s no shame in asking for help when you really need it. Since there always seems to be more to do than time to do it in at this time of year, you’ll probably have ample opportunity to ask for some help in getting things done. Plus, most people like to help and feel needed, but aren’t sure what to do unless you ask them.
  4. Learn to Say No: Saying “no” is an art form. We are so programmed to not hurt others’ feelings that we sometimes end up hurting ourselves the most in the end. By saying yes to everything and everyone else during this busy time, you could be setting yourself up for feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Instead of looking at it as saying “no” to others, think of it as saying “yes” to yourself. Yes to taking care of yourself. Yes to only doing things you really want to do. Yes to a holiday season that is more manageable. What’s not to like about yes?
  5. Rest and Be Merry: What good are you going to be to anyone (including yourself) if you run yourself ragged? One thing we sometimes do when there is more to do is forego sleep to get it all done. But when you sacrifice rest, it can have some significant and undesirable consequences. You can become irritable, lose your focus easily, have difficulty completing tasks, be more vulnerable to illness, and the list goes on. Do yourself a favor and make it a point of getting your optimal amount of sleep each night (from 7 to 9 hours). If something has to go because you just have too much on your to-do list, find something else to sacrifice.
  6. Unplug the Technology: Despite popular belief, the world will NOT end if you turn off your phone(s), computer, television, and other electronic devices to enjoy some real human interaction. Even if all you do is spend some quiet, uninterrupted time with yourself and your thoughts, it will be well worth it.
  7. Work It Out: Many studies have proven that exercise makes a person feel better through the release of endorphins, and it works out the stressful tension in the muscles and recharges your energy levels. To combat the effects of stress this holiday season, try relaxing exercises such as stretching, yoga, or tai chi. Just a few extra minutes of exercise a day can benefit your overall health.
  8. Take Stock in Your “Stuff”: Now is the perfect time of year to stop, take a moment, and take stock of all that you have. Sure, some of that might be material possessions (like a house, car, and other “stuff”), but also think of the non-tangible “stuff” you have, like relationships, your health, your attitude, your sense of humor, etc. It’s easy to focus on the negative or what we don’t have. But it’s so much more productive (and stress relieving) to think of all that we have to be grateful for. Make a list of your gratitudes…often. And review it whenever you start to feel overwhelmed by the stresses of the season.
  9. Just Breathe: Did you know that when we get stressed, we tend to hold our breath? Have you ever noticed that? Make a point to tune into your breath regularly during this time of year…when you’re waiting in lines buying those holiday gifts, when you’re searching for parking spots at the mall, or when you’re stuck in traffic.
  10. Tickle Your Funny Bone: One of the best kept secrets in stress relief is the power of laughter. Laughter helps us by providing a physical release of tension, distracting us from the seriousness we can get focused on when we’re feeling stressed, and connecting us with others. Have you ever felt relieved, lighter, less stressed after a good laugh? That’s because your body automatically tenses and releases several muscles, from your abdominals, shoulders, etc. This tension and release allows our bodies to let go of physical tension, which can lead to a release of emotional tension as well. Laughter can be contagious and create an instant bond between strangers, acquaintances, or friends. Studies show that the more connected we feel with others, the better able we are at dealing with stressful situations.
  11. Pencil in Some “Me” Time: Give yourself some evenings off to relax, enjoy some down time, and take in the blessings of the season. It’s okay to take a break. And it might just be the best “present” you could receive this holiday season.
  12. Practice Forgiveness: Some people believe that forgiveness is about what someone else did, but really, it’s about us. When we hang on to the wrongs of others, it affects us far greater than the other person. We can harbor painful feelings, negative thoughts, and spend a lot of energy thinking about something that’s in the past. The holidays are prime time to practice forgiveness, as we are often reminded of our past and the ways we think things should have been. As the ultimate gift to yourself, find something or someone you can forgive and then let it go.

Do you have any other favorite holiday stress busters? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Photo: Lonesome Hartwood Acres Holiday Tree © by iriskh

Leave a Comment: