4 Expert Tricks to Beat Holiday Stress

Keep your cool during the hectic holiday season with these easy, calming hacks.

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Image by rawpixel on pixabay
Image by rawpixel on pixabay

If you dread the onset of the holidays, you’re not alone. It’s difficult to get into a festive spirit when you are struggling with an overpacked schedule, anxious to face difficult family members, and stressing about shopping, traveling, or to-do lists.

These quick and easy mindfulness tips will help you reset anytime in the midst of this busy season so you can feel joy and peace instead of stress and dis-ease. Give yourself these simple, free gifts to avoid the gloom of holiday stressors!

1. Get outside.
A brisk walk first thing when you wake up can set the tone for a day of feeling energized, healthy, and excited for what’s to come. When colder weather sets in it’s vital to get your daily dose of Vitamin D to keep your immunity high and it’s best to expose yourself to morning sunlight, which is said to naturalize your circadian rhythm, leading to better sleep (a key factor for wellness). Work is always more demanding in advance of holiday vacation as you try to cram in as much as possible before taking off… often arriving home to more responsibilities.

Give yourself plenty of breaks in your day to best handle the demands of holiday time. Take a walk, notice the sounds around you, and feel your feet hit the ground with each step. This helps you to stay grounded and present instead of going over the shopping lists or travel itineraries in your head. Even if it is cold, new scenery is refreshing and chilly temperatures are invigorating when you’ve been cooped up in the office all day, preparing holiday meals over a hot stove, or dealing with challenging people. A quick dose of nature can boost your creativity, productivity, and efficiency while helping you to avoid burnout and breakdowns. 

2. Use your breath.
Holiday time can be triggering and it is the human tendency to switch to fight-or-flight mode. This is the natural stress response, but can turn into your default operating mode when you feel smothered by too much to do with not enough time to do it! Although we have been conditioned to default to tension, we can reprogram our body and mind through simple breathing exercises that help us to self-soothe.

Activating the parasympathetic nervous system by extending and focusing on your exhale releases you from unnecessary panic. Remember the 4:8 breath technique to use anytime, anywhere. Inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 8 (counting to 12 total). 5 rounds of breath equates to 60 seconds, which is the perfect pause to combat distress brought on by this trying time of year.

3. Bring awareness to your posture.
Checking in with your body, activating key muscles and releasing tense areas can create strength and resilience so you feel supported when everything else feels chaotic. It is a common habit to let your stomach loosely hang, which weakens the core. This puts more weight on the spine, pulling the lumbar section forward, leaving you off-balance, feeling heavier, and making it harder to get through long days without pain and strife.

Sitting up straight with your feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle encourages the core musculature to support the spine. While standing or walking, draw your low belly in and up (picture your navel moving toward your spine as if you were putting on a tight pair of pants). Relax your shoulders down your back and release any tightness in your hips and seat. Using your core while relaxing where you can throughout the body realigns the spine to make space for fuller breath – another key element to staying centered and collected while tackling all of your holiday tasks. 

4. Take a moment for mindfulness.
Pay attention to the thoughts in your head by adopting the witness perspective. Whenever you remember, notice what you are thinking, as if a part of your conscious mind is observing what’s going on in your head. You are constantly thinking, but not every thought is helpful, true, or meant to be trusted. Stepping out of your normal stream of consciousness helps to avoid the trap of getting carried away in negative thought patterns, stressful thinking, and getting overwhelmed. Sure, there are many things to worry about at this time of the year, but worrying doesn’t get things done or make it easier to keep moving forward. It’s actually quite toxic for your mental state.

You can retrain your brain to be more intentional and productive simply by circumventing harmful states of mind through perceptive awareness. Instead of losing yourself in worry, notice when your mind is taking you on a ride and practice reframing the way you think. Be encouraging and uplifting by giving yourself credit for all you’ve already accomplished. Rejoice for the good things in your life and conjure gratitude for family, friends, or good health. Thoughts like these are much more powerful ways to direct your mind and keep your spirits bright. The more often you can circumvent detrimental thinking, the less your mind will default to that pattern, leaving you better equipped to feel naturally happy.

These simple tips should help you feel the joy this time of year is meant to inspire. You might even start to feel enthusiastic about the holidays! You can use these easy tricks any time of year to reset, recharge, and stay energized when life gets hectic!

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