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7 Science-Proven Ways To Cut Holiday Stress In 5 Minutes Or Less

Between the endless parties, last minute shopping, holiday traffic, and extra family time, it can get a little crazy. We're here to help!

As seen in Metro Style, November 17, 2022

You’re not alone if the festive season gets stressful. Between the endless parties, last minute shopping, holiday traffic, and extra family time, it can get a little crazy. Not to mention the extra pressure to be happy and look your best too. Even if Christmas officially started in September, there is still time to make a plan before you and your calendar get overwhelmed. These science-proven ways can be useful tools to get you to January feeling good. Try adding one or two techniques into your routine (or lack of it) so you can actually enjoy the best parts of celebrating!

1 Set realistic expectations: your version of holiday celebrations does NOT need to look like what you see in movies, or the highlight reel that is social media. We know that social media can negatively affect our mental health, and many recent studies confirm this. Accept the imperfections in your life, and cut back on your screen time. Use those extra minutes for yourself instead, and consider what matters most to YOU at this time of year.

2 Give thanks: we may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but research shows that gratitude can be incredibly powerful to reduce stress. Gratitude helps people feel happier, boosts immunity and heart health, and helps us build stronger relationships. If you want all of these (who doesn’t?!), you can start by just writing down three things a day that you are grateful for.

3 Inhale, exhale: even if you’re not into meditation or yoga, taking a few seconds to breathe activates the parasympathetic nervous system that allows us to rest and digest, lowers your heart rate and tells your body to relax. Mindfulness activities can also physically change parts of the brain to help us better respond to stressors. Try the “box breathing” technique: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. Repeat 4 times. Bonus tip: this is a great one to try when you’re stuck in a line or in traffic. 4 Say no: I can't remember who told me this, but I agree with it—“you’re allowed to say no to others to say yes to yourself.” Grind culture tells us we are worthy if we do it all—work, socialize, travel, exercise, eat healthy—and that if we rest, someone else out there is doing more. We know now that multitasking actually makes us less efficient and more likely to make a mistake, and that burnout is a real thing caused by prolonged stress. So in the spirit of the holidays, you are allowed to be kind to yourself too, and set boundaries with a simple “NO” when you need it.

5 Calendar your “me” time: self-care can be the first thing to go out the window when you’re tired, hungover, behind your deadline, or just pressed for time. But the science behind sleep and exercise tells us it pays to add even 15 minutes of enjoyable exercise at home, or 30 minutes of extra zzz’s. When you feel physically and mentally better, everything else can feel a little easier too. Treat your self-care activities like meetings with yourself to help you stick to them. Writing a simple “MUST do” list and “COULD do” list that reflects your priorities can help too. 6 Get some sunshine: if you have five minutes to catch some rays, do it! We are blessed with year-round tropical sunshine that boosts our serotonin and melatonin, lowers our blood pressure, and strengthens our immune system. Get outside for a quick stretch break from your desk, your errands, or your family.

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash 7 Listen to music: as simple as it sounds, playing music to relax is a proven way to cut your stress and elevate your mood. This one works in many stressful situations you might get stuck in. Bonus tip: it doesn't have to be Christmas music! Holiday celebrations this year will be a little different from the last two years, too, with the return of in-person everything. Give yourself some space to adjust, and remember that yes, in the holiday madness you can still find your version of peace and joy.


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