The holiday season brings with it a hodgepodge of feelings for me. I love the anticipation of spending time with friends and family, of watching the faces of my kids when they open their gifts, or the warm feeling I get when driving or walking through neighborhoods decorated with lights.
I also dread the traffic as the days pass by, and the rush to get everything put together, wrapped, baked, and cleaned on time.
Along with all of those feelings comes a healthy dose of STRESS. Most of us toss that word around like we’re talking about the weather. Yes, stress is common, and some stress in our lives is even healthy. But before the season gets out of hand and leaves in its wake a frazzled, let’s-get-this-whole-season-over-with-soon mindset, here are a few things to stop the stress overload in its tracks.
S – Schedule the Important Stuff
To be sure you don’t miss the things you really want to do, put those front and center on your calendar, and work around them: the Holiday School Concert, the Cookie Exchange, etc. Keep up with yours and your families’ activities, to prevent last minute panic.
T – Take a Breath
Any time you feel anxious or overwhelmed, stop and just take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose until your lungs, and then your diaphragm are filled. Exhale through your mouth slowly. Repeat for one minute and you will feel much more relaxed, and your blood pressure will go down as well.
R – Relax
Taking a breath is one great way to help you relax, and can be done anytime. When times are especially stressful, more relaxing activities can pre-empt the cortisol that is released when stress builds up. That can be as simple as listening to calming music, to taking a bath or meditating. Yoga or Tai Chi are very stress-reducing stretching exercises with great health benefits. Pick an activity that makes you feel good, and do it regularly.
E – Exercise
Physical Activity releases endorphins in the brain which relieve anxiety and stress and even lessen depression. The best part is that as little as five minutes of exercise can start the chain reactive effect that endorphins have on the body. Go for a brisk walk, or an extra lap around the mall, just walking. Jumping jacks, stairs, or even dancing around the house are great options.
S – Stay Focused
Here is where the wheels can easily come off the bus. Try to stick with your important items, and say NO to anything that will not help you stay focused on your goals. Of course, things can come up that you weren’t expectiog, just take the time to ask yourself if you really want to take on the task, go to the event, or spend the time on it. You will thank yourself later.
S – Smile!
This is the easiest one to do, and my personal favorite. There are numerous studies that link laughter with increasing all the positive healing hormones in our bodies. There are even documented cases of patients healing their cancer with hours of watching belly-laughing comedies every day. How awesome, and so much cheaper than medicine! Curl up with your favorite movie or TV comedy, or visit a local Comedy Club.
These are just a few simple, quick ways to keep you in the holiday spirit. Pass it along, and spread a little cheer wherever you go this season. Enjoy!