Holiday parties, family get-togethers, and other holiday activities are all fun and games until the added demands on your time, energy, and attention create the perfect storm of stress and anxiety. Add to that the disruptions in regular schedules, travel, preparing meals, managing and take care of house-guests, and having less time for yourself and KABOOM – You’re hiding in the laundry room with two day old cookie dough in your hair, glitter and glue from a last minute teacher gift stuck to your only clean sweater, responding to texts trying to track down that must have present, all while trying to wrap presents and keep the tears at bay.
Here are some things you can do to help you be more relaxed and reduce stress this holiday season:
Enjoy the Christmas Decorations
According to a study at the University of Rochester in New York, gazing at something red (like a poinsettia, Christmas-tree ornament or festive tablecloth) for about 1 minute sharpens brainpower and increases stamina levels. Researchers explain that focusing on the bright holiday hue increases the production of energizing brain waves. Plus, strong, pleasing aromas, like the fresh scent of a Christmas tree, activate the limbic system, that’s the switchboard in your brain that controls alertness, so you’ll feel clearheaded in no time
Let Go of Perfection
You want to re-create that gorgeous holiday party you saw on your favorite HGTV show. You’ve saved all the beautiful recipes and crafts to your Pinterest boards, but your poinsettia sugar cookies look like melted snowmen and you stitched the cute elf table runner to your sleeve. Don’t stress yourself out trying to make everything perfect. Martha Stewart may look like she does it all by herself, but she’s got a team of cooks, bakers, stitchers, designers and assistants that work their fingers to the nub to make the show come together. Since you probably don’t have a full-time production crew at your disposal, try to set more realistic expectations for yourself.
Enlist Others to Help
Feeling overwhelmed by the idea of decorating the house and cooking the Holiday meal for the extended family and guests? It is the season of giving after all, so ask others to pitch in. Make Christmas meals pot luck or ask guests to bring a certain something to the table. Ask your crafty uncle to come over early to help decorate. Include the children in age-appropriate chores like vacuuming, sweeping floors and stuffing all those boxes of junk you haven’t sorted through yet into the closet.
Turn up the tunes
Feeling anxious? Listen to your favorite music. It doesn’t matter if it’s The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Christmas Extravaganza concert, or the latest from Adelle. Research from the University of Maryland shows that hearing music you love can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. It not only calms you down but is good for your heart, too.
Make a List
Santa’s not the only one who knows the power of a good list. First, write down your wish list of things you’d like to accomplish, then come back to reality and whittle it down to what you must do with a few extra “wish” items you can actually get to as time permits. Do your Christmas dreams include giving out gorgeously-decorated cookies baked from scratch wrapped in handmade boxes to friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, your child’s teachers, her pediatrician, your primary care doctor, the coffee barista and the mailman? That’s fa-la-la-la fantastic, but maybe not a realistic if say, along with everything else you have to do, you’d like to get a little shut eye so you can enjoy the holidays rather than stress out and sleep walk through them with bags the size of carry on luggage under your eyes.
Walk away your Worries in the Sun
According to Janette Gaumer, RD, LD, CHC, Registered Dietitian and Certified Health Coach at Speare Memorial Hospital, “Walking has a calming effect on the brain, reducing anxiety or stress and improving sleep. And being outside in the sunlight activates the production of feel-good brain chemical called serotonin.” So, take a break from the holiday hustle and bustle with a walk around the block.
The fleshy place between your index finger and thumb is called the hoku spot in traditional Chinese medicine. Applying firm pressure there for just 30 seconds can reduce stress and tension in your upper body.
If you start to feel overwhelmed by the holiday chaos, put down the cookie scoop, the cell phone, the wrapping paper or what-have-you, take a deep breath and give your hand a squeeze.
Don’t let the holidays drive you to the breaking point. Negative thinking can trigger your body’s stress response, just as a real threat does. It might be difficult to look on the bright side when the cat is pulling the tree down, you don’t have a present for Great Uncle Albert who just flew in from San Diego and the kids ate your stash of Godiva chocolate, but an optimistic outlook will help you cope with any challenge that come your way. Even doing a daily affirmation, like Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live, can help take the edge off, because “You’re good enough. You’re smart enough. And gosh darn it, people like you!”