You know how it is. You’re headed into the Christmas season, and there is so much to be done with so few days to do it all. With all of the meal prep, holiday baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, and more it’s all too easy to feel a million miles away from the task in front of you.
While these are all fun traditions that you have created with your family, you find yourself looking forward to it all being done so you can stop feeling so stressed out!
But it's actually a good thing that you’re aware of the tension and stress that can stack up around the holidays. Many of the suggestions we read for relieving stress are best done in your own time and on your own turf, but that doesn’t really help you when you’re on the road visiting family, at the office Christmas party or trapped listening to your over-talkative relative in your mother’s tiny kitchen.
So, in the name of a restful holiday season, here are seven suggestions that can be done “on the fly” when you feel your body or brain getting stressed out:
#1. Breathe in the scent of lemon, orange, or mango.
If possible, obtain high quality essential oils in these basic formulas. These particular scents have been shown to relieve stress and give a strong sense of well-being and calm.
This can be done almost anywhere, at any time. Even in a restaurant you can order lemon with your water, and give it a good squeeze into your water!
#2. Take the party elsewhere.
If you are walking into a particularly stressful family situation that is fraught with conflict (say after a messy divorce, or an even messier extended-family gathering), suggest that you have the meal or get-together at a restaurant, café, or other public venue.
Most people are reluctant to get into heated arguments or raise their voices when in public. The shame factor usually kicks in and people tend to be on their best behavior in front of outsiders.
#3. Don’t drink caffeine on an empty stomach.
Whether it’s first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon, It’s better to eat a meal or snack before drinking coffee on an empty stomach.
Food allows you to avoid the spike in blood sugar that occurs when caffeine hits your system. Usually, after your blood sugar spikes, you can expect to feel jittery and irritated. This isn’t a good combination if you are trying to avoid stress!
#4. Turn off your electronic devices.
The reason airlines make you turn off your electronic devices is that they interfere with vital signals coming from the airport tower, from other flight crews, and from their own internal controls.
The wise person will look at that and make the analogy that constantly being on alert to the “pings” of electronic alerts, calls, texts, tweets, Facebook alerts, game alerts…on and on, creates a type of hypervigilance that triggers the stress mechanism in our brains. If you truly want a day of rest, turn off the electronic devices or put them on “Do Not Disturb” while you’re spending time with people that you enjoy.
#5. Listen to your favorite music.
Listening to music relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow to the brain. When music that you love calls up fond or cherished memories, endorphins are released, and stress is reduced.
Conversely, listening to music that calls up bad memories will create negative thoughts and emotions; so avoid the sad or angry playlists as best you can.
#6. Squeeze the Pressure Point on Your Hand.
The fleshy pad between your thumb and pointer finger is a trigger point for tension. If you are in a stressful situation, no one will notice you massaging one hand with the other.
With either constant pressure or a light massaging of this area, you will feel a reduction in upper body stress and tension. This works great for tension headaches as well!
#7. Find a Way to Laugh.
Whatever it takes to give you a great, big belly laugh, do it. Watch funny movies, read a funny book, tell jokes around the table, play a fun board game together, or remember funny childhood stories of holidays past.
Just laugh. Finding the humor in things or situations reduces stress hormones and actually helps boost immune system functions.