Holidays come pre-packaged with stress - thanks to relatives, airports, malls and bills. The usual demands of the holiday season can stretch your physical and emotional limits, and if you are not prepared, leave you so stressed you are unable to enjoy special times. With all the shopping, cooking, planning, spending, and traveling, it is so easy to fall into the trap of doing too much, ignoring our own needs, and ending up in meltdown mode.

Holiday Shopping

How to Relieve Stress

A sense of control lessens the stress load. Cultivate the conscious intention to care for yourself and those holiday obligations in a more centered way. Here are five simple ways to tame holiday stress and nurture your own spirit:

1. Start Early

Give yourself plenty of time to get prepared. The earlier you get things done, the more time you'll have to enjoy parties and other holiday activities. When preparing for holiday events and activities, allow plenty of time to avoid unneeded stress and last-minute rushing.

Start your Holiday shopping early and plan to shop on more than one occasion if at all possible. By starting early and knowing you don't have to buy everything on your list that day, you will have a better chance of finding the gift you want at the price you can afford. If you wait until the last minute, you may find yourself spending more for a particular item or spending money on a gift simply to have "something" to give because you have run out of time. Spending more than your budget allows will certainly add stress to the holiday season and beyond.

2. Avoid Caffeine

 Coffee, tea, cola, 'energy' drinks and chocolate are used so unconsciously in our culture that most users have no idea they are mind-altering drugs. These caffeine containing foods and drinks can make you feel jumpy, anxious, and fearful. They can interfere with your ability to relax and sleep, thus compounding holiday stress. Try herbal teas blended for relaxation.

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3. Lighten Up

Some people are especially sensitive to lack of sunlight. Since daylight is scarce in winter months, holiday blues can be amplified. Exposure to full-spectrum lights may brighten your spirits. Try to get outside for a while each day, preferably for some exercise or a meditative walk. 20 minutes outside right now will make you feel better.

4. Exercise

A brisk walk, a group fitness class, or thirty minutes of strength training can naturally relieve holiday-induced tension. Exercise also helps neutralize the damage Christmas cookies and eggnog reek on waistlines. Acknowledge that you probably will not always have time for your full workout routine during the holidays, and plan for that. Do what you can, but don't stop.

Stretch workout

5. Breathe

Conscious breathing is the single most effective relaxation technique. When you feel like a Christmas cookie about to crumble, try this simple yogic breathing's simple and can be done anywhere:

Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth. Keep it there during the exercise as comfortable.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a 'whoosh' sound.
  • Next, close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Then, completely exhale through your mouth, making a 'whoosh' sound to a count of eight.

This is one breath cycle. Now, inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

How to Beat Holiday Stress

  • Treat yourself to something good
  • Exercise and meditate 
  • Eat mini-meals
  • Keep a budget to not overspend
  • Do activities that do not involve shopping

Knowing the difference between changeable and unchangeable sources of stress does require wisdom. A positive attitude is an invaluable tool. An optimistic focus is essential for enjoying the holidays, or at least surviving holiday stress. After you have done what you can, go with the flow.

It is also important to keep ourselves healthy and fit during the holidays. Read our previous article on "How to Stay Fit and Active During Autumn"