Managing Holiday Stress

You've spent the last few weeks running around choosing gifts for others, but what are you getting for you? The best gift you can give yourself this year is stress management for the holidays. It's a nice gift for your friends and family too, who want to see you healthy, happy and relaxed.

The first thing you should do to reduce your holiday stress is breathe! Yes, it seems simple, and is a required function that we are constantly engaging in, but when you stop to consciously pay attention to your breathing, you will instantly create space between you and your stress.

Practicing breathing awareness regularly can aid in stress relief. When you feel yourself becoming blanketed by stress and anxiety, take a moment to stop, shut your eyes, and focus on inhaling and exhaling long, steady breaths. Do this for a few cycles while allowing the increase in oxygen to rejuvenate your cells.

Take another moment to acknowledge the change, open your eyes and ready yourself to take on the day.

To reduce your general stress and improve your overall well being, give your body the ammunition it needs to fight stress with a healthy diet and adequate sleep. Getting enough sleep may seem impossible during the holiday season, but this is the time of year you need it the most!

With the cold, dark days of winter, your body instinctively needs more sleep and rest. If you've been sticking to your normal sleep pattern, but you are now waking up tired, your body is telling you that you need more sleep, which is common this time of year.

When you are in a rush, don't tell yourself you can just stop for fast food! Grab a piece of fruit such as a banana or apple, a granola bar for energy and a canteen of water on your way out the door. Keep an extra fiber bar or protein bar in your bag just in case, to satisfy you after a long day of doing for others.

If you think you can't make time for adequate sleep, this leads into the third tip: don't over commit yourself! You do not need to be a superhero, attend every holiday party, make crafts and snacks for every event, and run yourself ragged in the process. Learn how to say "no," "maybe" and the occasional "yes," if the event is so important to you that you are willing to spare the time and possibly at the expense of your personal health and well being.

You may love to make everything from scratch, but this might be the best time of year to utilize your local artisan bakeries and buy their fresh made organic breads and desserts, and bring those instead. People won't mind that it isn't homemade as long as it tastes like homemade.

An effortless bit of advice that can really bring down your stress levels during the holiday season is to use the "KISS" method: Keep It Simple, Silly. Plan your holiday parties at your home, but keep it simple. Ask guests to bring a dish to pass, and for a good spread, designate types of dishes for each person to bring.

Plan dishes that you can prepare ahead of time, and are ready or can be heated the next day for your event. An even easier way to plan your holiday party is to offer appetizers in lieu of a full meal. Many appetizers can be prepared ahead of time, and even better if you choose healthy options that will leave your guests feeling light and refreshed.

Many people like alcohol over the holidays, but if you are feeling stressed, try making healthy refreshing non-alcoholic drinks that your guests are sure to enjoy. Don't forget to delegate tasks when cleaning up, as your friends don't expect you to do 100 percent of the work and if you are busy cleaning in the kitchen, they don't get to see as much of you.

Last, don't neglect your personal care. The holidays may not be the best time to start a new workout regimen if you have never stepped foot in the gym, but if you do exercise or practice yoga or meditation, make sure you stick with your regular routine and you will feel the full benefits of your practice. Take extra time to relax in the bath, keep your skin hydrated with water and natural lotions, and enjoy the blessings the holiday season brings to us all.

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