Our contributor, Kara Stout, offers her strategies for relieving stress during this hectic holiday season. Read on to discover intentional ways to make the wish of peace and joy a reality.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or is it? It seems like so many of us have way too much on our plates, not enough time in the day and not enough energy, which (let’s face it) decreases our holiday cheer. I made it a goal to relax this holiday season and take it slow, but wouldn’t you know, I’m busier than I’ve been in months! The stress is affecting my peace and joy this time of year, and I don’t like it.
Many friends I’ve talked to say they are feeling the same way. So, let’s do something about it! Let’s be intentional this holiday season, to prioritize this sweet time of year and to really be present and enjoy the holidays. To ensure it stays the most wonderful time of the year, here are 10 ways to decrease stress during the hectic holiday season.
- Prioritize Having Fun: Adulting is hard. Let’s be real. So, we really need more laughter and fun in our lives. I encourage you to think of fun holiday activities that you would enjoy and write them down as your holiday bucket list. Let’s take some advice from Buddy the Elf and make snow angels, gingerbread houses, go ice skating and end the day with snuggling.
- Take a Stress-Reducing Bath: Soak in a warm bath with Dead Sea salt or Epsom salt, add some lavender essential oil, light a candle and put on your favorite relaxing music.
- Tea Time: Teas are great for reducing stress. Three that are especially beneficial for stress reduction are chamomile, peppermint and lemon balm tea. You can also add a spoonful of local, raw honey, which is also known to help with anxiety.
- Eat Chocolate: Yes! I’m encouraging you to eat chocolate. Chocolate is known to boost your mood, no surprise there. Ideally, go for the dark chocolate, and better yet, go for the raw cacao powder. This is basically raw chocolate and a superfood. It balances the body’s stress hormone, cortisol. You can add it to your smoothies, overnight oats or make a homemade hot chocolate using raw cacao, almond milk, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla.
- Volunteer: This is always a good idea and takes the focus off our own stress and struggles. It’s so rewarding when you spend your time helping a cause you are passionate about. You never waste your time when you’re doing good for others.
- Decorate: There’s something so exciting about seeing a Christmas tree, twinkling lights and stockings hung this time of year. It just makes us happy. Some people may feel a little overwhelmed at the thought of decorating, but I promise, you don’t have to decorate Buddy the Elf-style—my gosh, talk about pressure! You can decorate as little or as much as you’d like, even just stringing white lights on a small tree or decorating the fireplace. Also, Target has the cutest little bottlebrush trees in a variety of sizes and colors—some are even pastel! They are festive, pretty and so easy to simply set out.
- Just Say ‘No’ and Don’t Overcommit: We often feel this pressure to please and say ‘yes’ to everything. We don’t want to offend anyone, and we also don’t want to miss out on any fun. But, this ultimately will lead to feeling exhausted and unhappy. So, commit to the events, meetings, parties and projects you really want to go to, and politely say ‘no’ to the rest. When we say ‘yes’ to too many things, ultimately other areas of our lives become negatively affected.
- Go for a Walk: A walk always helps us clear our heads. Depending on where you live, this might not always sound like the greatest idea during the winter months, but even just a 10-minute walk, all bundled up with the fresh air, can truly be beneficial.
- Get Off the Phone: This is the perfect time to take a social media and technology break. We are constantly checking emails and all social media accounts 24/7. This is so draining, can affect our mood and leads us down the comparison black hole. Not good. There is definitely a time and place for technology and social media, but just not all the time. I encourage you to turn your phone off for a half day or full day each weekend this season. This will help us be more present and increase our happiness and attentiveness to others.
- Sleep: Stress can negatively affect our sleep, and poor sleep can increase our stress. It’s a bad cycle that we need to break. Sleep has to be a priority. If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, some simple tips are: Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m., try disconnecting from technology one hour prior to bed, read a book, stretch and drink a good nighttime tea.