Staying Stress-Free During the Holidays

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The holiday season has officially fallen upon us, and in hand with the festive cheer, gathering of family and friends, and holiday music comes a whole lot of stress. According to research from last holiday season, 31 percent of Americans would describe the holiday season as “frantic.” As much as we may like to put on the facade that the holiday season is still a time of cheer, we should face the fact that it’s stressing all of us out.

How has this season that’s supposed to be so full of cheer become so stressful for us? According to the study, it’s surprisingly not due to the hassle of gift shopping, getting stuck in long lines, immense cleaning, finding the perfect gift, and preparing meals.

Whether the holiday season is your most or least favorite time of the year, there’s no escaping the reality that it brings a mound of anxiety to get everything ready in time. In order to have a more enjoyable holiday season, learn these tips and tricks to limit holiday stress as much as possible.

Hit the brakes

How is it possible that each year time seems to go by faster? One second you’re in the middle of August, and then you blink and suddenly it’s Christmas.

When we start getting caught up in the rush of life, our stress builds at a dramatic rate. Instead of losing control of your life, be mindful to slow down and live more in the moment. One tactic for doing this is practicing deep breathing techniques, which can help trigger the relaxation response.

By deep breathing, you can turn off your body’s natural reaction to stress, (the fight or flight response), and instead activate a state of relaxation in which your body experiences deep rest to decrease your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and muscle tension.

In short, stopping to breath can actually scientifically calm you down, so you should try it sometime.

Schedule in “me time”

In the season of giving and being selfless, it’s not uncommon to forget completely about yourself. But you matter too, during the holiday season and all times of the year.

To be more intentional about dedicating time to yourself, schedule it into your calendar. That’s right, I’m saying you should actually take a pen to paper and write in times that you’ll plan to hang out with yourself. It may sound silly, but it will help make sure you remember to spend that time to yourself and can communicate with others that you’re serious about your “me time” so you don’t experience interruptions.

During your personal time, do whatever it is that you like to do to calm you down. It could be watching a movie, baking, practicing a craft, working out, reading a book, or anything in between. Self-care is all about yourself, so find what makes you happy and take time to do just that.

Need somewhere to start? Check out these DIY holiday self-care crafts you can make and then enjoy.

Stay well rested

This seems like a no-brainer, but keeping up with sleep is something a lot of people forget about during the holidays. Your schedule is naturally changing during the end of the year, especially if you have children who are out of school for the holiday to deal with during the days. Many people choose to make up for lost time on shopping and finishing up last-minute details by skimping out on sleep, but if you do, you’ll only be hurting yourself.

When our bodies don’t get sleep, we can suffer in the short and long-term. If you want to avoid being the holiday Grinch this season, make sure to keep up with your regular sleep schedule. Along with making sure you’re cashing in on all of the time you should be sleeping, make sure you’re getting good quality rest too. Eight hours of sleep isn’t worth much if you’re tossing and turning all night or waking up in discomfort.

Find ways to get your best night’s sleep every night, whether that’s by darkening your room with blackout curtains, turning the temperature down a few degrees, or re-evaluating your sleeping arrangement. If you have trouble getting good sleep, you may have an underlying issue to look into.

An improper mattress can contribute to joint breakdown and long-term irritation, taking away your chances of a good night’s rest. Learn the best ways to create your comfort zone so you can keep up with your restorative sleep.

Remember the reason of the season

When your kids are home from school going stir-crazy from being cooped up in the house, they can tend to drive you nuts. Not to mention the obligation to visit with the in-laws, deal with the crying and screaming children, and that one aunt who always makes backhanded comments about your weight.

Sometimes, all it takes is a simple change in perspective. While all of this extra time with family can seem like a burden, it can also be something you cherish. Turning your mind around to focus on the positive aspects of life can help you psychologically cope with stress. The more you look for the good, the more you’ll find it. The holiday season is meant to be a time that you enjoy with family members, not one you spend counting down the hours until you’re left alone again.

To truly help remember the reason for the season, you might consider doing family activities that help serve others in your community. This could include sponsoring a family in need and preparing a meal for them, leaving holiday cards in your neighbors’ mailboxes to spread good cheer, or simply encouraging your family members to spread positivity to others throughout the day. These activities can help you simultaneously enjoy time with your family and cultivate positivity in others to celebrate the meaning of the holiday season.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

When it all comes crumbling down (and trust me, something is bound to go absolutely wrong), don’t be the one who tries to fix it all themselves. It may be a decorating disaster, a cooking catastrophe, or a jam-packed schedule that leads you to a near breakdown. Whatever it is that causes you distress, accept that you cannot tackle it yourself.

During the season of giving, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Recent studies found the pressure to have a “perfect Christmas” ends up taking a toll on 41 percent of Americans who say they have to work too hard to achieve it.

For moms, the percentage jumps up even more to 49 percent as they put even more pressure on themselves to execute the perfect holiday gatherings. No one can do it all. Avoid letting the “festive stress” get you down and call in backup to help make your holidays everything you dream of.

Laurie Larson is a freelance writer from Durham, NC. She writes about living a healthy and happier lifestyle.

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