Tis The Season!

“It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.”

~ Sarah Kay

December — it’s the most wonderful time of the year! The time when most of us are thinking about our Christmas festivities, making lists, planning the big dinner, and dragging out the tree, decorations, and lights. Tis the season to be jolly, right?!   

The holidays are a time for family and friends to gather in celebration of joy and love. Yet, despite the anticipation of delightful hours spent with loved ones, these days can be more stressful than joyous for many people. Coping with the hustle and bustle of the shopping, cooking, and decorating can make one feel anxious, frustrated and yes, even sad. The pressure to feel happy can add more stress which makes the holidays less enjoyable.  

Some people are more likely to feel blue around the holidays and, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the breadth of preparation that goes into creating the perfect Christmas event. It is not surprising that many people are exhausted and depleted long before they’re ready for Santa to come down the chimney.   

Does this sound like you? Do you feel stressed, anxious, and depressed around the holidays? Don’t despair. You are not alone. There are steps you can take to alleviate some of that negativity. 

Try these stress-busting ideas and find more joy in December*   

Take a few deep breaths when you feel stressed or anxious. Breathing in deeply and slowly is calming and rejuvenating. Giving yourself a minute can help your brain reset. Some swear by combat tactical breathing technique. Used by the military, this method can help you reduce stress and decrease nervousness. Learn more about combat breathing.

Move your body:
Exercise is a great way to alleviate stress and, it can help you feel good, too! Any movement is beneficial — whether you take the dog out for a walk, go for a run, or do a few jumping jacks in your kitchen. Try these ideas to restore your equilibrium from Participaction: 6 Activities to Help Maintain Your Zen During the Holidays. You can also download their free app and take the 12 Days of Fitmas Challenge. Available at the iPhone app store and Google Play.

Cultivate gratitude:
Feeling anxious or stressed is not unusual during the holiday season. A simple method of dispelling those negative vibes is to remind yourself of a few of the reasons you are grateful for the Christmas season. Actively cultivating gratitude increases benevolent feelings and helps to reduce stress levels. Learn more: Why Being Thankful Isn’t Just for Thanksgiving Day.

Grab some me time:
At this time of year, it is crucial to look after yourself. When you are stressed or have the “Holiday Blues”, take a little break — sit down with a cup of your favourite tea, immerse yourself in that book sitting on the shelf. Or slip into a tub of fragrant bubbles and relax your way to bliss. You’ll be amazed at how rejuvenating a short time-out can be. Discover 8 Reasons Why Baths Are Great for Your Health.

Smell your way to serenity:
Studies have shown that certain scents may play a key role in reducing anxiety and stress. We all know that scent can evoke powerful memories — so it isn’t surprising that our sense of smell affects our well-being. Research on stress and sense of smell have determined that the scent of citrus can have a calming effect on our brain. Other scents, like lavender, rosemary or chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven can relax us, energize us or awaken a calm and pleasant mood. Try blending your own “mood-lifter” from your favourite essential oils — here are some ideas to get you started.

Break with tradition:
We love our Christmas traditions — they are the mainstay of our holiday preparations. While rituals can be comforting, they can sometimes bring up negative emotions. Take a moment to evaluate the customs that are part of your special occasions. It is okay to let go of the habits that cause you stress and anxiety. Your celebrations will be more enjoyable if you forgo baking those five dozen sugar cookies. Your stress levels will be lower if you say no to your cousin’s annual holiday carolling party. Why not start new traditions — try family Secret Santa or lasagna for Christmas dinner instead of turkey? 

Read Are You Feeling Stressed Out Over Traditions? for a unique perspective on family traditions. Don’t miss the steps for evaluating and changing traditions near the end of the article.  Please share your best stress-busting ideas in the comments. 

*These tips are not to be considered medical or professional advice of any kind. If you are feeling intense stress, anxiety or depression, please consult a medical professional.