The holidays are a time of love and revelry — so why does everyone always seem so exhausted and tense? The American Psychological Association found that stress increases dramatically during the holiday season, as people struggle to find the time, money, and energy to enjoy themselves. When the holidays become just another annual chore, there is little reason to celebrate.
It is possible to feel wonderful during this wonderful time of year, but to do so you must be committed to relaxing before, during, and after the holidays hit. Read on for some serious suggestions for de-stressing and appreciating the life and love of the season.
1. Forget Difficult Traditions
For as long as you can remember, your family might have thrown a massive party on Christmas Eve, but if you get no joy from the planning and preparation of the get-together, is it really worth all the stress? Often, we mindlessly follow holiday traditions, despite how difficult and demanding they are, without considering whether or not we find the activities fun and meaningful. This year, you should catalogue your regular traditions and ditch the ones you don’t enjoy, so you can spend more time doing things you love with people you love.
2. Find Nature
The summer season is long over, and with it went the languorous hours of sunlight. The holiday season is unquestionably dark, which can give many people a case of the “winter blues,” otherwise known as seasonal affectedness disorder (SAD). SAD may be a major contributing factor to your overwhelming anxiety during the holidays, as it often causes irritability, fatigue, weight gain, and other symptoms that foster stress. Fortunately, the best medicine can also be one of the most enjoyable treatments available: Spend more time outside during the day. You can take walks around your neighborhood, hike trails in local parks, or do any activity that exposes you to restorative sunlight.
3. Breathe Easy
Mindful breathing has long been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s more restful processes and encourages feelings of relaxation. There are dozens of different breathing exercises you can use to practice mindful breathing, and nearly every one provides a different effect. Here are two of the most effective relaxation breath techniques:
- Equal breathing. Work to balance your breath by inhaling through the nose for a count of four and then exhaling through the nose for a count of four. Keep one hand on your diaphragm and one on your lower belly, and breathe in a way to move your upper hand while your lower hand remains still.
- 4-7-8. After exhaling completely, inhale through your nose for a count of four. Then, hold your breath for a count of seven. After that, you can release your breath through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, for a count of eight. Complete this cycle no more than four breaths in a row.
4. Be Present
Christmas is about a week away, and you still have a million things to do. It is easy to get your mind racing with all the tasks that are as yet unfinished — but worrying about the future is never good for your stress levels. Instead, you must focus on your current project until it is completed, and then you can allow yourself to consider the next step.
From Halloween to New Years, the holidays are an indulgent time of year. When you aren’t feasting on turkey and pie, you are enjoying a selection of homemade cookies, booze-based drinks, and other comfort foods. While it is entirely acceptable to treat yourself during this once-a-year celebration, you should strive to balance these calorie-rich delicacies with some nourishing, healthful alternatives. For example, after a night of adult egg nog and Champagne, you might spend the next day sipping tea. You might even get some holiday gift ideas for tea lovers while you’re at it.
Whether or not you are able to mitigate the causes of tension and anxiety during your holiday season, taking time to develop a tranquil, peaceful mindset will certainly prepare you for any surprise holiday stresses. Here are a few suggestions for meditative focuses during the holidays:
- Emotion. What are you feeling? What caused that emotional reaction? How would you prefer to feel?
- Compassion. Who do you love? Are there any limits to your love of these people?
- Core values. What do you truly care about? Are you upholding your core values at present?