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The 12 Stress Management Strategies for this Holiday Season

Although the holiday season is a time to be joyous and celebrate with those around us, often we  find ourselves overwhelmed by our busy schedules and long to-do lists.  Whether it’s running around doing some last minute gift shopping or planning for the in-laws, we all have those moments of letting stress get the better of us. 

A recent survey from the ADAA, shows that in the United States, 7 out of 10 adults experience stress or anxiety every day.  Both short-term and long-term stress has a multitude of effects on our body and mind.  Stress can trigger muscle tension and pain, which can lead to headaches, restlessness, fatigue, and lack of sleep.  Furthermore, stress weakens the defense of our immune system, increasing our risk of sickness.  Not to mention, the behavioral and emotional effects of feeling overwhelmed can alter our eating, breathing, and sleeping habits that keep us healthy.

Remember, it’s important to take time for ourselves every day!  There are a wide variety of activities and exercises one can partake in that can best help you manage holiday stress.  Below are a list of my favorite activities to get you through this holiday season. 

  1. Exercise - Cardiovascular exercise is the best way to take off some steam.  PT360 offers a wide variety of classes on a weekly basis that can help you with this.
  2. Take a Vitamin D supplement - Known as the "sunshine vitamin", Vitamin D supports immune system function, lung function, and insulin levels.  Deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to mood changes.
  3. Play a board game with friends or family - Simple and fun, board games or card games help stimulate brain activity associated with problem-solving and can subconsciously manage your stress.
  4. Breathe deeply - The quickest and most time efficient strategy. Take a few moments before you start your car to breathe deeply through your nose.  Breathing fast, loud, and through our mouths are signs we could be stressed out.
  5. Take a hot bath - Sit back while you soak in a warm bath.  Play some music and light a candle for a more soothing experience.
  6. Decorate a gingerbread house - A classic!  Let your creative side run free as you architect a delicious work of art.
  7. Take a trip to a nearby puppy kennel - Although it will be tempting to take one home, you can visit the kennel and spend some time with some adorable puppies.  Studies show that time around pets increase our oxytocin levels in the brain, which modulate memory, empathy, and social cues.
  8. Read a new book - Get cozy by the fireplace and start that new book you have been meaning too.  A University of Sussex study showed that it took subjects only 6 minutes of reading to ease muscle tension and lower their heart rates. 
  9. Meditate - Whether it’s silent meditation, yoga, or listening to a tape, performing some form of meditation is very effective in reducing stress levels. 
  10. Complete a festive holiday puzzle - Puzzles are a great way to activate our problem solving skills and memory.
  11. Eat some dark chocolate - That’s right, chocolate.  Dark chocolate triggers endorphins to bind with receptors in the brain to create a sense of euphoria as well as providing tryptophan, the building block for serotonin.
  12. Make a list of everything you are grateful for - It always does the body and mind good to remind ourselves what we are thankful for, especially around the holiday season.  Simple, but goes a long way!

As you can see, there is an endless variety of things we can do to manage stress.  Moreover, we can all find the 10-20 minutes a day to work these activities into our schedules. If you don’t like one, try another, or try to do them all!

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!