6 Tips to Reduce the Stress of the Holidays

The holiday season should be one of the happiest times of the year, but all too often, stress takes its toll.

Woman feels stress of the holidays

Maybe you’re stressed about something specific, like seeing a certain relative who always pushes your buttons. Or perhaps your stress is more general – the constant feeling that there’s just not enough time to get everything accomplished.

Although it can be hard to know how to beat the holiday stress, much of it can be avoided if you find new ways to take care of your physical and mental health. Here are some strategies you can use to reduce stress this holiday season:

1. Exercise as Stress Relief

Over the holidays, it’s okay to take a day or two off from working out but do keep in mind that exercise is one of the best stress-busters of all. Don’t stop physical activity all together. Instead, do something active that’s also fun. Instead of staying indoors with the adults after breakfast, bundle up, go outside and play with the kids. Or this year, why not sing and dance to your favorite holiday songs?

2. Create New Traditions

Sometimes traditions outgrow themselves, but it can be hard to let them go. This year, remind yourself that just because you’ve always done things a certain way, you don’t have to continue doing them that way. To adjust more easily, think ahead of one new tradition you can start this year and one you can let go. Then go ahead and make the change.

3. Use Breathing Exercises to Reduce Stress

One way to stay ahead of stress and reduce the impact of holiday pressures is to practice focused breathing. Deep, abdominal breathing increases oxygen to the brain and relaxes the mind and body. Plus, you can practice it while you are doing other things, such as preparing a holiday meal. Check out the focused breathing techniques at the American Institute of Stress.

4. Avoid Stress Eating

It’s common to overeat over the holidays and to feel stressed about it later on. Instead, figure out a strategy you’ll use when the food appears. For instance, decide in advance that you’ll enjoy your favorite foods but that you won’t take a second helping. Or choose to enjoy holiday cookies or other sweets only once a day, such as after dinner, versus whenever they appear.

5. Let Others Help You to Reduce Stress

Don’t insist on doing everything yourself during the holidays — not only will it cause you stress, it will probably make others around you stressed too. Instead, delegate holiday tasks to friends and family members. Often, they’ll be happy you told them what they can do and will be glad to help.

6. Remain Flexible

Although the holidays require careful planning, especially if you are hosting others at your home, planning and plotting every hour will only make you feel more stressed. If the plan changes, accept it and move on. Remind yourself that plan B often ends up being just as rewarding!