Ahh… The holidays! We’ve looked forward to this time all year long to spend with friends, family and loved ones. But now that the holidays have arrived, we feel ourselves feeling tense, pressured, and generally just stressed-out.
These times can be as harrowing and stressful as they can be joyous for many trying to keep up with the often frantic holiday pace. Frayed nerves from standing in long lines, having to find the perfect gift on a tight budget, worrying about finances, and hosting out-of-town friends and relatives are just a few examples of how the holiday season can break us down.
Experts estimate that upwards of ninety percent of disease is stress-related. And perhaps nothing ages us faster, internally and externally, than high stress. So how do we maintain holiday cheer amidst all the stress? Check out these eight, easy-to-implement tips to stay healthy and happy through the holidays while avoiding the dreaded stress monster.
1. Plan Ahead
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
The holidays may not exactly be a battle, but it can sometimes feel that way to the unprepared. Yet many still don’t take the time to think through their holiday plans in advance. I recommend turning off all distractions and sitting down to plan out your holiday agenda for the following:
- Gift Lists
- House Decorations
- Greeting Cards
- Food Shopping
- Housewares & Supplies
- Events You Will Attend
- Event/Party Attire You Need
- House Guest Arrangements
- Holiday Travel
For those with kids, make sure to plan out their holiday activities separately from your own and make arrangements with other parents, schools and sitters well in advance to avoid last-minute stress. Also, avoid crowded and stressful shopping centers by ordering online. Most department stores and even grocery stores have services for either pick-up or delivery of items ordered online, minimizing your exposure to large stressed-out crowds.
“Don’t ignore me now, because you’ll need me later.”
It may seem like a no-brainer, but one of the biggest stress reducers during the holidays, or any other time for that matter, is pure and simple exercise. Many people complain “But things get so hectic during the holidays and there’s just no time to work out!” Well, make time. Even if it’s for just a few minutes a day, it will help.
Walking even has huge benefits as a stress reliever. The rhythm and repetition of walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, decreasing anxiety levels while improving overall sleep patterns. Aim for a brisk, half-hour walk every day.
Yoga is also a great stress reducing activity that can have many other beneficial effects as well. If you suffer from the effects of chronic stress, I highly recommend looking into taking a beginner Yoga class.
“For fast-acting relief try slowing down.”
Any time you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to be mindful of what’s happening around you. It keeps you in the present moment and helps to alleviate unnecessary stressful thoughts. One proven basic practice is to pay attention to your breathing. Begin by sitting down and setting the intention to be mindful. Remind yourself why you’re doing this – in this case, to reduce stress. One great habit is to spend 2 minutes meditating right after taking your lunch break. Pause twice in your day to spend some time on mindfulness. Even just two minutes can transform your whole day.
“Massage is the study of anatomy in Braille.”
As I’ve spoken about many times and help my own clients with, Therapeutic Massage can be a great stress reducer. Clinical studies show that even a single 1.5 hour session can significantly lower your heart rate, cortisol levels and insulin levels, all of which help reduce stress. For mild stress Therapeutic Massage is ideal, while more severe cases often require Deep Tissue Massage, Neuromuscular Therapy, and/or Trigger Point Therapy to counter the negative effects of stress and anxiety on the body.
If you found this article useful, be sure to check out part two of this post where I share four more ways to avoid holiday stress. In the meantime, try out these tips when you feel stress and see how they help you get through your day!
Have a balanced Day! ~Maria
About The Author
Maria Martos is the owner and founder of Sagewood Wellness Center in San Juan Capistrano, CA. As a certified Neuromuscular Therapist, Maria specializes in the treatment of severe, chronic or minor pain, as well as injury rehabilitation and prevention. She holds a certification in Sports Massage providing her with expertise to evaluate and address athletic injuries and to help professional and recreational athletes improve their athletic performance. Maria is Board Certified by the NCBTMB, and provides therapeutic massage sessions for those seeking stress reduction and relief from generalized aches pains, and tension. Maria holds a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, and offers individual Counseling, focusing on Integrative Mind-Body Therapy to help individuals uncover and remove unconscious blocks that limit them from living their best lives. She is also a Reiki Master and Teacher, and has worked in the health care field for over 25 years.