The holidays are ironically known for being a stressful time. However, there are many stress killer tips and tricks you can use to minimize all the holiday anxiety and chaos.
So, what causes someone to get stressed during the holidays in the first place, and what can be done?
Stress Killer Tips for Minimal Holiday Anxiety
Most Americans report feeling stressed out by the time the holidays roll around, from Thanksgiving until the end of the year. Some people feel more than just a little stressed out; from winter depression to deep holiday anxiety, millions of Americans find themselves second-guessing every Santa-related decision and struggling with massive bangs of guilt, self-deprecation, and loathing for their dinner rolls in anticipation of Thanksgiving.
If you’ve ever felt a lump of fear and worry curl up and solidify in your belly as the end of November approaches, it might help to know that you’re far from alone – and that there are a few things you might be able to do to deal with your newfound worries and fears.
Here are nine stress killer tips that can help.
1. Ball Your Fists
When it comes to immediate benefits with close to no preparation, creating little beats by making a fist and squeezing tightly can help. As strange as it might sound, this neat little physical trick seems to help the mind in more ways than one – you center yourself, help improve your memory and summon greater willpower.
Not all stress killers are created equal, and there are varying degrees of useful stress management to match the occasion. Fist-clenching is one way to remind yourself of where you are while releasing a little tension through the muscles.
It’s a mind game, but a very useful one. It can bring you an immediate short-term burst of calm and collected energy and help you push through the night. So, remember – if you need just a short pick-me-up, clench those fists.
2. Breathing Exercises
In much the same way that gritting your teeth and clenching your fists might help release a little tension, breathing exercises can be another useful way to drop your blood pressure a little and remind yourself that things aren’t as bad or as urgent as they might seem.
Timing your breaths, focusing on the rhythm of your breathing, and even utilizing positive affirmations as little mental mantras can help you transform something you do involuntarily into a voluntary expression of self-control and calmness in the face of an anxious situation.
If you don’t have much experience using breathing exercises, consider talking to a therapist about using both breathing and mindfulness as a short-term stress management tools.
3. Take a Hike
When mantras, controlled breaths, and fist clenching aren’t enough to help you face your worries, the next step up is a brisk walk. It doesn’t have to be alone or even outside – but if you do decide to hit the pavement, consider taking the shortest route to the greenest place you can find in your vicinity.
Taking frequent walks can be a great way to get a little exercise in without a dedicated workout program or gym membership, and walking in nature – even if it’s an urban park – has a much greater effect on our mental health than walking down the street or on a treadmill. If you can make it all the way into a forest, then that’s even better.
4. Minimize Alcohol
It’s a time for joy and cheer, but for many people, it’s also the time for eggnog and holiday cocktails.
But if you struggle with anxiety and holiday stress, to begin with, drinking to try and take the edge off is actually a pretty bad idea as a stress killer. While alcohol is associated with cutting loose, you’re much more likely to feel worse rather than better if you’re stressed out or worried.
5. The Magic of Music
Is all that holiday music getting on your nerves? Grab a pair of earphones and put on your favorite jams or relaxing tunes.
Music services like Spotify and YouTube Music have gotten better and better at figuring out your tastes and sending out a whole slew of recommendations – so if you can’t hear your old tunes anymore, feed them into your program of choice and find out what other music might soothe you.
6. You Don’t Have to Be a People Person
There’s nothing wrong with introversion. Some people thrive around others, while some people prefer to keep to themselves and a select few friends, especially on relaxing occasions.
While you might not be able to avoid the bare minimum of large family contact during the holiday weeks, it’s okay to ask for a little more space in between big family dinners and remind your loved ones that you need to recharge your social battery for a little longer than most people do. Recharging your social batter is not only a great stress killer technique, but it also helps decrease social anxiety during the holidays.
7. Watch What You Eat
The holidays are a known time for gluttony but cutting a little too loose can be physically and mentally upsetting, causing you to feel sluggish, disrupting your sleep, and potentially affecting your mental health.
It’s not just a matter of gaining a few extra pounds over winter – if you’ve been relying on a certain diet or eating rhythm, then stepping too far out of line can affect your gut flora and, in turn, your mood. Worse yet, overeating can be a difficult habit to curb – meaning it’s harder to stop once you start, even as the holiday period closes out and we enter the new year.
8. Too Much on Your Plate?
Perhaps the greatest source of holiday stress is time management – juggling appointments, dinners, dates, gift purchases, multi-course meals, family feuds, sibling rivalries, bad weather, traffic, COVID worries, and heating bills all at once can cause a person their fair share of headaches.
Avoid taking responsibility for each and every major task. Delegate! Involve your family members. Get your kids and partner involved. Ask your siblings to pitch in. Instead of having two separate family dinners, why not split the work, and put together a big potluck? Money is tight this year – keep gifts simple and have one less thing to worry about.
9. Time for Bedtime
Sleep quality is one of the most important factors for both mental and physical well-being. Missing an hour or two of sleep can impact a person severely – not just mood-wise but cognitively and physically as well.
Don’t skip out on sleep! Keep your natural rhythm, even throughout the holidays. The added consistency can help you reduce stress and keep your worries at bay.
Prevention Beats Cure
Stress relief is important, but minimizing your risk factors for excess stress matters even more. Limit your stressors, keep your food clean, get a lot of sleep and hydration, work with your family to cut down on unnecessary stress this holiday season, and focus on a calmer transition into the new year.