‘Tis The Season! Fight Holiday Stress With These Expert Tips

It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, yet with non-stop shopping, a sudden overblown social schedule full of holiday parties, travel, and family visits, it’s no surprise that many of us feel a whole lot of stress along with all those feelings of wonder.

‘Tis the season, right?

But although the holidays can increase stress rather than bring tidings of joy, there are some surprisingly easy expert tricks you can use to fight back against that stress and reclaim your holiday for yourself.

When the holiday hands you lemons…take a big sniff. Research in depression shows that certain citrus fragrances can actually boost your mood and alleviate your stress by elevating your levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that affects your mood.

Hold your own hand. Literally. Find the fleshy spot between your index finger and thumb, referred to as the hoku spot in traditional Chinese medicine. Once you find it, apply firm pressure for at least 30 seconds. Just that little squeeze can reduce stress and tension in your upper body. So next time you find yourself in yet another seemingly endless line, waiting to buy yet another round of holiday gifts, just give yourself a squeeze.

Let the sunshine in. Yes, it can be as easy as that. Simply spend a little extra time outdoors or stand near a window on sunny days, because the sun actually stimulates the production of that feel-good serotonin.

Take a walk. We all know the numerous benefits exercise can have on both body and mind. As nutrition-and-wellness expert Dr. Ann Kulze explained, “The rhythm and repetition of walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, and it decreases anxiety and improves sleep.” Try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day to help ease holiday stress and anxiety — and give you a step up on keeping some of those holiday pounds from collecting.

Expert tips to reduce holiday stress. Shopping does not count as a stress-reducing walk. [Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images]Just say no. And mean it. And know that it’s okay to do so. Dr. George Pratt, a psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, explained, “We go overboard to please others during the holidays: shopping, cooking, sending cards, and attending every event. Instead, take care of yourself by saying no at least once — and maybe more.”

Put the cell phone down. Gently. Yes, you can do it. Now walk away. Not only does going tech-free actually free us up to spend time with our friends and family, being “plugged-in” can actually have a negative effect on us. The constant buzzes and alarms and alerts from our phones actually keep us in a perpetual fight-or-flight mode due to bursts of adrenaline, according to Health Magazine. This is exhausting, and it also contributes to increasing stress levels, especially in women. So, turn them off and tell yourself it’s actually less stress that way.

Putting your cell phone away can help reduce holiday stress. Yes, even you, Santa. [Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images]Don’t aim for perfect. So much of our holiday stress is self-made, because, of course, we all want everything to be full of holiday magic but, says Donna Schempp, the program director for the Family Caregiver Alliance, that may be doing more harm than good. Stop obsessing over perfection. Shrug off the clutter and don’t sweat it if dinner is a few minutes late…or a few minutes overdone. Instead, focus on what matters — the people in your life. “Focus your energy on enjoying the people in your life,” says Schempp, and in doing so, free yourself from some of that holiday stress. And you may just find that when you focus on what is really important, that holiday magic just happens naturally!

With just a few tweaks, and a change in expectations, the holidays can be what they are supposed to be — an opportunity to spend time with friends and family, rather than a stressful, overbooked blur of days that leave you bloated and broke.

What are your favorite ways of coping with holiday stress? Let us know in the comments!

[Image via Shutterstock]