De-Stress Your Holidays
Here's how to turn holiday havoc around so it doesn't get you down.
Christmas shopping, office parties, high-pressure family dinners—let's face it, the holidays can be as stressful as they are merry. With a little help, though, you can say "so long" to your inner Scrooge and enjoy this season.
"The four sources of stress during the holidays are fantasies, family, food and finances," says Mark Gorkin, a psychotherapist and public speaker who goes by the moniker "Stress Doc." "The temptation is to want it all," he says. People often get so caught up in the eating, drinking, partying and shopping, he adds, "that there is no time for spiritual reflection and quiet nurturing."
So nurture your sanity this holiday season with these nine tips from Gorkin:
1. Just say "no"
Be realistic about how many parties you can actually attend. Remember that saying yes to every invitation could result in burnout. Also, going to tons of parties presents more challenges to your diet than you might want.
2. Stay in your groove
Carve out time for yourself — and greedily guard it. If you have an exercise routine, such as walking every other day, keep that as your anchor, and try to make holiday chores and events revolve around your exercise schedule, not the other way around.
3. Take baby steps
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of holiday tasks, like sending out 114 holiday cards. Certain tasks are more doable when broken into chunks. For example, you could purchase the cards a month before Christmas or Hanukkah and write a few at a time over the next several weeks. Then, address all the envelopes. If you have kids, why not enlist them to stuff envelopes and put on the stamps?
4. Appoint a "designated nagger"
Give your partner or a close friend permission to nag you when you start worrying too much. Have your "designated nagger" tell you to slow down and take a deep breath as soon as you begin worrying too much about overeating, not exercising enough or finding the perfect gift for everyone down to your boss's cat.
5. Have a big holiday draw
Sit down with your family early in the holiday season and discuss the sources of stress and conflict that always seem to rear up this time of year. Then distribute crayons and paper, and have everyone draw pictures of your "family stress image" — a big ogre wearing a Santa hat or a giant present exploding like a firecracker, for example. "This is a great way to get out your frustration in a positive way," says Gorkin.
6. Revel in the scent of solitude
Light a lavender-scented candle in your bathroom and take a hot bath, or use some lavender-scented bath oil. A study on aromatherapy reported in the International Journal of Neurosciences stated that the scent of lavender helped adult test subjects feel more relaxed and perform mental calculations more accurately than did other scents.
7. Walk it out
Take a nice long walk and focus on smelling the crisp winter air or watching snow falling for a form of meditation.
8. Immerse yourself in music
Listen to a tape of holiday songs, or make your own recording by dubbing a set of your favorite tunes onto a cassette tape, CD or MP3.
9. Stroll down memory lane
Fill a hatbox or shoe box with objects that are important to you, such as your child's first tooth, family photos, postcards, love letters or inspirational poems or quotes. Whenever stress looms, take out your box and enjoy the warm feelings your mementos inspire.