Quick Guide: How to Combat Holiday Stress
Crowds and lines, hosting, and family politics are all part of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that can prevent you from having a good time with loved ones. In fact, a 2015 survey of shoppers by Healthline  showed that 62% of respondents described their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays, while only 10% reported no stress during the season.
Holiday stress is associated with anxiety, fatigue, tension and physical ailments such as stomachaches and headaches . Considering that we cannot skip from October to January each year, here are some tips on how to work through holiday stress. With these practical tips, you can minimize the stress that comes with the holidays and enjoy them more than you thought you would.
1. Stay active.
Find an activity that works for you and your lifestyle to remain grounded this holiday season. Cardiovascular exercise stimulates the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone), which helps you feel happier and decreases your stress. You can easily make social activities more active by taking a walk on the beach or a stroll downtown. And if you’re already an active person, consider pre-scheduling a manageable amount your fitness activities. This way you can meet your friend and family obligations and not let your healthy activities go. Exercise can boost your mood for up to 12 hours, so get up and go for a trot !
2. Take time for yourself
Doing activities you enjoy can help you maintain a healthy mind as you juggle family obligations, social events, and holiday shopping. Spend just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, and you may feel refreshed enough to handle everything you need to do. Even a quick 30 minute massage can help you relax and sleep better. Adding aromatherapy can your massage can increase a massage’s good effects. Researchers studying depression have found that certain citrus fragrances boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress by upping levels of norepinephrine, a mood-effecting hormone .
3. Don’t abandon your health habits
Many people turn to coffee and overload on unhealthy snacks and treats to keep up with their chaotic schedules during the holiday season. In a Healthline survey, only 25% of the respondents turned to fruit for a healthy burst of energy . When participating in holiday events, consider choosing healthier options, such as fruits and veggies. Also consider limiting alcohol consumption as alcohol takes a psychological and physiological toll on your body and may actually compound the effects of stress. Healthy habits also apply to your social life. Pre-planning your holiday meals, shopping days and activities gives you more control over your diet, time and overall stress. Your body will thank you.
Your friends and family can be triggering and detrimental to your mental health, especially during the holiday season. But, for your own sake, you should try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Psychologist Gabe Howard  suggests we “set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion [and be] understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.”
5. Give experiences over objects
More than anything, the holidays are about spending time with the people we love. Since no one wants to be stressed, why not give the gift of relaxation that you can enjoy with someone else? This holiday season, schedule a massage with a loved one to relax and escape the stress of the holidays. A study by the British Psychological Society found that both partners’ well-being, perceived stress, and coping abilities improved after each massage . So go ahead and make that appointment!
Enjoy spending time with your loved ones but remember to take time for yourself. Whether you are stressed about gifts, planning a get-together or your family, before you know it, the holidays will have passed. So enjoy the season while it lasts and use these tips and tricks to keep your stress level to a minimum. By listening to your body and learning to recognize holiday triggers you can combat holiday stress.
1. Edwards, Scott. “Holiday Stress and the Brain” Harvard Medical School Department of Neurobiology http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/holiday-stress-and-brain
2. “Manage stress” healthfinder.gov https://healthfinder.gov/healthtopics/population/men/mental-health-and-relationships/manage-stress<
3. Association of American Educators “Top ten healthy holiday tips” http://aaeteachers.org/index.php/blog/1206-top-ten-healthy-holiday-tips
4. Howard, Gabe. “Five Tips to Beat Holiday Stress” Psych Central https://psychcentral.com/blog/five-tips-to-beat-holiday-stress/
5. American Heart Association. “Holiday stress? 5 tips for a heart-healthy holiday season” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/FightStressWithHealthyHabits/Holiday-Stress-Try-Our-Top-5-Tips-for-a-Heart-Healthy-Holiday-Season_UCM_433252_Article.jsp#.WTb4wtjrvIU
6. British Psychological Society. “Rub each other up the right way – couples massage relieves stress” http://www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/rub-each-other-right-way-%E2%80%93-couples-massage-relieves-stress
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