There is a not-so hidden truth about the holiday season, and it’s that for all the fun, family bonding and love that is shared, the holidays are stressful. You must buy gifts, cook turkeys, host multi-family dinners, and appease your insufferable mother-in-law. At times like these, a little self-TLC goes a long way in keeping your cool, and you need not go to an expensive spa to relax. Here are a few cost-free ways to dial back your stress during the holidays:
1.Take a walk
Mountains of research demonstrate the positive relationships between exercise and stress reduction. According to the Huffington Post, a UK study found that walking through green spaces can put the brain into a meditative state. The act is found to trigger “involuntary attention,” meaning that it holds attention while also allowing for reflection. Walking also gives you extra energy, which is helpful to have during busy times.
New Mexico is especially beautiful in the fall and winter, so if you’re feeling frazzled, lace up your sneakers and hit the road. Maybe even bundle up with a mug of tea and take in a beautiful sunset.
2. Light a scented candle
Aromas can have powerful stress-reducing effects on the brain, and burning a candle with a stress relieving-specific scent is a great, cost-free way to relax the mind. The candle also adds soothing ambiance. Light one while you’re wrapping presents or working in the kitchen for a boost of relaxation. Lavender, rosemary, peppermint, lemon and ylang-ylang are several scents said to offer stress relief.
3. Break from Facebook, at least for a short while
Studies have shown that too much Facebooking makes people anxious and depressed, and with the holidays being a prime time for photos and updates that trigger status anxiety, it might be wise to disconnect for a bit. Doing so will make you less inclined to compare your holiday activities with those of your peers, and feel less pressure to do or spend more. Plus, you can always connect again when you feel ready.
4. Write it out
Sometimes, if life is getting you down, it helps to put your feelings on paper (or a computer). According to EveryDayHealth.com, a study published in Psychotherapy Research found that psychotherapy patients who were told to let out their emotions through expressive writing experienced greater reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms and better progress in psychotherapy when compared to a control group. So if your [insert irksome relative of your choice here] is driving you nuts again, write it out.
5. Show Fido some love
There is scientific evidence that people feel less stressed when they are petting a dog, cat, or other animal. It makes sense when you consider how heavily dogs are used to comfort trauma victims, rehabilitate wounded soldiers, and aid children with mental or emotional disabilities. If you own a pet, show him or her some extra love—they won’t judge you or your green bean casserole (in fact, your dog will no doubt think it’s delicious!).
6. Ditch (or scale back) the caffeine
While a triple-shot macchiato may give you the energy you need to get through a long day, it could also be adding to your stress levels. According to wisebread.com, “just 15 ounces of coffee (that’s a Grande from Starbucks) is enough to raise your adrenaline levels by over 200%.” If you can’t give up caffeine completely, opt for green tea or an apple, which will give you a sustained boost of energy from its healthy sugars.
What are easy, cost-free activities you do to relieve stress during the holidays? Share them with me in the comments section below.