12 Easy Ways to Beat Holiday Stress

Racing to the office, walking the dog, finding the perfect tree, decorating, shopping, cooking, baking, writing out cards, wrapping gifts, attending the kids’ holiday plays … the holidays can be so hectic!

Here are some survival tips that might help you avoid exhaustion and dodge the seasonal blues. Just one or two of these might make the difference between “just getting through” and actually enjoying this joyous season with family and friends!

  • Shop online. You’ll save time and avoid traffic, parking hassles, inclement weather, long lines at the registers, crowds, noise, everybody rushing around in panic mode … only to find that you’re too late and the products you were shopping for are sold out. It’s much easier to shop from the comfort of home.
  • Get some sunshine. If it’s too cold where you live, then bundle up or sit by a window with the sun streaming in!
  • Eat breakfast. Especially if you’re a coffee lover; caffeine on an empty stomach could spike your blood sugar and contribute to irritability.
  • Exercise. If there’s no time for the gym, take a walk around the block during your lunch break.
  • Tune in. Listen to some music on your commute to work, while on your computer, in the shower … anywhere you are! Music relaxes your blood vessels and increases your blood flow, which tends to calm you down.
  • Laugh. Laughter is so good for the soul and greatly reduces stress. Watch a holiday comedy with family, friends or just alone and laugh, laugh, laugh a lot!
  • Get a massage. Or, in the spirit of the season, give one!
  • Scale back. If you have elaborate holiday traditions, maybe it’s time to create new ones that aren’t so labor intensive. Instead of hosting the annual Christmas Eve family dinner, a potluck dessert might allow you to mingle and socialize more. Also, don’t try to do everything yourself; ask for help!
  • Stretch it out. Ideally, you’d start your shopping early and do your outdoor decorating after the last leaves have fallen in November, before the ground is covered with snow and there’s a howling wind outside! (Can’t count the number of years I’ve mistimed this one!) But another option is to push some of your holiday get-togethers into January. That way, you won’t have quite as much to do in December — and you’ll have something to look forward to in the New Year, when the post-holiday blues might otherwise set in.
  • Embrace imperfection. It’s understandable to want your Christmas dinner and decorations to appear ripped from the pages of a lifestyle magazine. Forget about that. In the real world, perfection is unattainable. When your family recalls this holiday, the memories will be of each other — not whether a couple of lights were crooked or the reindeer cookies came out looking like goats.
  • Sleep. Let those visions of sugarplums dance in your head! The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you skimp on this over the holidays, you’ll make yourself tired, unfocused and cranky.
  • Don’t overindulge. Stress can make you over-eat. Then you think about all of those calories you just consumed, and you get more stressed, which makes you eat more … it’s a vicious cycle. So enjoy those holiday treats, but don’t go overboard. Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than a couple of huge ones. In between meals, boost your serotonin by snacking on brightly-colored veggies or a handful of nuts; white walnuts (a.k.a. butternuts) and black walnuts have the highest levels of serotonin). And drink plenty of water!

– Judi Bauer