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10 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress

It’s the holiday season – the whirlwind of buying and gifting and parties and activities are here. Meant for feelings of joy and cheer and warm fuzzies, it’s also layered with much stress for many people. It can begin to feel like 100 more things on the already packed to-do list. Amongst the sparkle of glitter and twinkle of lights, there can be a lot of pressure and TOO MUCH of everything. Too much doing, eating, drinking, spending, togetherness.

Here are 10 Tips to Reduce your holiday stress this season:

1. Plan plan plan. Make lists or use an appointment book to keep track of tasks to do and events to attend. It will really help you feel less stressed by taking the to-do list out of your head and onto paper. Relieving yourself of the constant need to try to keep everything in mind. Let it flow onto the list and then check things off one by one.

2. Share the tasks. I repeat. Share the to-dos. You do not have to do everything yourself. Share the to-do list with others. Relinquish the idea that it has to be entirely on your shoulders. Where you can’t delegate, get everyone in on the task – decorate together, wrap presents together, prepare food together.

3. Take breaks from group activities. Spend some time by yourself whenever you can. Even if it’s in small 10-minute breaks. Do some breathing. Go for a walk. Meditate. Take a bath if you enjoy them. Listen to your favorite music. Whatever is truly nourishing to you. Truly nourishing. Not scrolling on social media or checking your inbox for the thousandth time. Something just for you.

4. Rethink your New Year’s Resolutions. Typical resolutions are weighty and large. Either pick a small goal, break it into tinier steps over the year, or instead of a goal, consider an inspirational word of the year to guide you.

5. Accept imperfection. Let good enough be good enough. This is the perfect year for a holiday reset. I have been hearing from a lot of people that this year is feels like we need to compensate for last year’s lack of holiday festivities. However, be sure not to get into too much. We often set the bar impossibly high for ourselves then feel upset when celebrations don’t live up to those expectations. Acknowledge that things may not go quite exactly as planned. It’s ok if it’s not perfect. Imperfection is healthy and normal. Practice normalizing the imperfect.

6. Focus on what you can control. There are exactly 2 things in this world you can control: your thoughts and your actions. That is all. You can’t control what your parents say around the dinner table. You can't control your kids’ attitudes. And when you choose to let go of what you can't control, you'll automatically reduce the amount of stress in your life by refusing to carry other people's problems. Make a list of what you're stressed about. Then write down the things that are in your control. Everything else gets tossed in the trash. Take control and ownership of your thoughts and actions and do what's best for you and your family.

7. Protect your downtime. Tis the season of giving but don't give so much of yourself away that you have nothing left to give. Keep your peace and quiet, and you'll keep your sanity. Make time to enjoy the things you love. Read a book. Dive into some of your favorite Christmas movies that put you in the holiday spirit. Create some breathing room between parties, travel schedules, deadlines at work in shopping trips. Try to stick to your normal routine. If your average day starts with waking up, pouring yourself a cup of coffee, and catching up on the latest news headlines, don’t skip that. Having some normalcy can help keep you calm and focused for the day ahead, plus it's a great way to stay sane especially when you have a house full of extended family and guests.

8. Take calm down breaks. Soon after you awake, close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and meditate or just relax. Imagine yourself in a beautiful place, think of a happy memory or visualize yourself succeeding at a cherished goal. Quieting your mind before you begin the day can help get you off to a great start and help things flow for you. In addition, whenever you feel stressed out, anxious or overwhelmed during the day, take quick relaxation breaks of 1 to 5 minutes to calm yourself down. Conscious slow breathing can help you when you're feeling frustrated waiting in line at the supermarket, post office, or drug store (or waiting online for pages to take forever to load).

9. Get moving. Perhaps one of the best ways to overcome stress during the holidays or any other time is to exercise regularly. Research shows that physical activity boosts not only your fitness and energy levels but can also elevate your mood. In addition, exercise has been found to reduce anger, tension, fatigue, and confusion. Despite the many demands on your time, this is not the season to stop exercising. Research has also shown that regular exercisers that go inactive begin to feel depressed and fatigued after just one week. Exercise can also give you that great feeling of energy and mood boost that comes with the production of endorphins, your body's feel-good neurotransmitters.

10. Go for real foods. At this time of year, you'll be tempted with sugary, empty calorie treats just about everywhere you go. But to be your most energetic, focused and happy self, it’s best to eat foods that grow on trees or in the ground (vegetables and fruits) and to choose healthy fats (such as olive oil and flax seeds), lean protein such as fish and organic chicken, and legumes, nuts and seeds

11. I know I said 10 but here's a bonus one. Take smaller portions of holiday foods and drinks. During the holidays it's easy to overdo the alcohol, sugar, and caffeine. Mindful eating can help. The best way to stay true to the best of you is to be aware of your consumption of such foods and drinks. When offered these foods, remember that they aren’t really a special treat. Food is neutral. You can have them any time. Sometimes we think that we have to make use of the opportunity to indulge, when really, it’s just another food, just another day. Try to take three to five bites or sips after having a very well-balanced meal with lots of vegetables fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and proteins. Then really allow yourself to really notice those bites. Smell the food, notice the taste. Eat slowly and intentionally. You’ll be less likely to overindulge if you take the time to really taste the food. This can reduce your stress around holiday eating.

Enjoy what you can, leave what you don’t. I hope some of this has been helpful so that the holidays can be something you look forward to instead of dread. Let me know which is most helpful for you.

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