Top six ways to reduce stress during the holidays…
By Tracy Shields - If you plan on spending your holidays this year entertaining or being entertained, with two people or two hundred, let’s face it: The holidays can make you want to pull your hair out. Not only is this a time of abundant joy, preparation, gift-buying, penny-pinching, cleaning and cooking, it’s also a time that emotions run high, old childhood memories come back to haunt, and getting along with certain family members is anything but easy. That being said, here are the top six best things you can do to shrink the stress and grow the joy…
1. Lose the negative thinking. Imagine that all things are neutral and that you can choose the way in which you perceive them—either positively, negatively or neutrally. Oh wait… you CAN do this. You just have to change your perspective on things. Oscar Wilde once said, “The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.” Try to see the positive in everything. It takes practice, but it’s worth it and reduces stress.
2. Be giving. As hard as it might be to see through the blizzard of commercialism, remember that giving gifts—store-bought or handmade, especially if they come from the heart, still gives joy to the people receiving them. In a New York Times article, “Giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends,” and may also be part of our evolution.1
3. Spend alone and rejoice in the freedom of that aloneness. Each of us knows exactly how much time we need with people and how much time we need apart. Find that balance. Heavy crowds while out holiday shopping, or days spent visiting friends and family, can be overwhelming to some of us. Don’t be afraid to sneak upstairs or outside for a little me time. It’s time to breathe, heal and regain your energy. But be wary. Aloneness is different from loneliness, which happens to many during the holidays. According to Osho, a Zen spiritual leader, “Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive.” Loneliness, on the other hand, is negative. If you find yourself lonely, seeking the company of others who may be absent or distant from your life, try to see that as a separate entity from aloneness. Recognize that loneliness cannot be “cured” by adding people to your life, but rather, by changing your perspective on how you value who you are and what you are capable of all on your own.
4. Volunteer. Nothing says holiday spirit quite like volunteering. And despite its increased popularity during the past several years, not enough of us do it. And don’t think that it’s too hard or you’re not cut out for it. Volunteering is so much more than working a soup kitchen. There’s something for everyone. In fact, the American Red Cross offers all kinds of amazing volunteer opportunities including advocacy, community work, literacy, teaching, computer technology, children’s services and, yes, even helping at a soup kitchen. The point: When you give of your time it not only helps others, it makes you feel good—thus reducing stress.
5. Ask for help. No matter what the issue (too much food to prepare, too many gifts to wrap, need help with the kids, can’t stand another minute alone, etc.), ask for help. One of the joys of social media is that we are always one click away from a post that will show up in our friends’ newsfeeds. And while we all try to be maddeningly independent, it is in our biology to help one another. In an article in Scientific American, “Cooperation has been a driving force in evolution.” It not only takes a proverbial village to raise a child, it takes a village to help us all survive. So bury the pride, reduce the stress and ask for help. You’ll be surprised to see how many people show up at your doorstep ready to support you.
6. Eat well. I don’t mean eat abundantly; I mean eat healthy foods that can fight off infections and enhance your immune system. Eating well makes you stronger and able to handle excess stress. Avocados, almonds, tea, Swiss chard, fatty fish—these are all great examples of foods that not only help strengthen your immune system, but reduce stress as well. And while the holidays may be rich in festiveness, they can also be a little too rich with unhealthy fats, white flour, heavy cream sauces, cookies, pies and cakes. Go easy on these empty calories that may taste delish, but will wear you down and weaken your body’s ability to stay strong and ultimately stress-free.