Holiday Stress Survival Tips

holiday stress

Top Ten Relaxation Tips to Sooth your Mind and Body During the Holiday Season

During the holidays we are often surrounded with images of people who are happy, in love and enjoying the whirlwind of their lives.  However, in reality this time of year can be tiring or bring up painful feelings.  Wouldn’t it be nice to get through the season with just a little less stress and a few more moments and calm and peace?

The following tips are designed to help you find relaxation during this busy time and also to improve how you are thinking or feeling about the moment and the season.

  1. Find Meaning in the Season.  Find or reconnect to a purpose, meaning or value during the season.  Focus on the positive aspects of the holidays and the season.
  2. Muscle relaxation:  After a day on your feet, shopping, partying or otherwise extolling holiday cheer sit down and relax your muscles by tensing and relaxing each large muscle group, starting with your hands and arms, going to your head and then working down.
  3. Do only One Thing in the moment:  Doing just one thing can give you time to settle down in the midst of a frantic or chaotic day. Focus your entire attention on what you are doing now.  Let go of the mental list making, worrying, party planning, etc.  Put your mind in the present and focus your entire attention on physical sensations, such as walking, washing dishes, or decorating.
  4. Give yourself a Vacation:  You don’t need to go to Bermuda to take a vacation this time of year.  Give yourself a brief break from all the hubbub.  Get in bed and pull the covers over your head.  Take 15 minutes to immerse yourself in your favorite book, take a long bath, ask your husband to make you dinner, or wrap up in a comfy blanket and watch your favorite movie.
  5. Contribute:  Contributing can give a sense of meaning and make you feel good about yourself. Give something to someone else, do volunteer work or do a surprising, thoughtful thing.
  6. If you’re feeling down, do something Opposite to how you feel.  Let’s face it, if your life isn’t picture perfect the holidays can bring up sadness, regrets and other painful emotions.  Change your mood and how you’re feeling by engaging activities that are opposite to how you are feeling.  Read emotional books, listen to emotional music or go to emotional movies.  If you’re down, do something upbeat like call a friend, buy gifts, exercise, flirt with your husband, go out to dinner, take your children someplace special, say “I love you” or think of something you did well.
  7. Self Soothe with Taste:  Instead of going to a holiday party and grazing on appetizers without really tasting anything, choose one and slow down and really taste it.  Or at home have a good meal or favorite soothing drink.  Really taste the food or drink.
  8. Comfort yourself:  Do something nurturing, gentle and kind for yourself. Look outside at nature or at some beautiful decorations, listen to music that you find particularly soothing or sing your favorite songs.  Surround yourself with soothing comforting smells, like the smell of pine, cookies baking or cinnamon.  Massage your feet, put on a silky blouse or scarf or hug someone.
  9. Deep Breathing: Lie on your back, breathing evenly and gently. Focus your attention on your breath, coming in and out and the movement of  your stomach.  As your breath in, allow your stomach to rise.  Exhale fully pushing all the air out of your lungs. Continue for 10 breaths.
  10. Clean the house: The holidays often bring extra chores and cleaning.  Use them as an opportunity to self soothe, rather than as an additional stress.  Divide your work into stages:  straightening things and putting them away,then scrubbing and cleaning.  Allow a good length of time for each task.  Move slowly (3 times more slowly than usual) and focus your attention fully on each task.  Maintain awareness of your actions and your thoughts if they wander.  Bring them back to full attention on the task at hand.

Photo by brockvicki, available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.

13 Replies to “Holiday Stress Survival Tips”

  1. I use the “Feel Good Tracker” iPhone app to keep track of the activities that I do. It’s simple to use, and doing enjoyable activities helps me reduce my stress level.

  2. While I appreciate the list, I think so many of your “solutions” are fruitless. I think single people are mostly depressed over the holidays, or just people who are alone, in general. So, your stating to “flirt with your husband,” or “take your children somewhere special” is a bit imperceptive.

    1. You’re right. The list is not directed at any one group of people and as a result, some of the items on the list will not fit for any one person. Hopefully, if the holidays are lonely or sad, some of the items on the list, such as reading an uplifting book, being kind and gentle towards yourself or deep breathing, will be a better fit. If not, you may find better strategies from PsychCentrals Coping With the Holidays list.

  3. This was an article I printed out because it would be good to refer to during the Holidays. To my disappointment, I cannot get the ends of the sentences to print out, it just skips on to the next sentence. How can I fix this?

    Virginia

    1. I’m sorry buy I don’t know a lot about the technical aspects that might be interfering with you’re ability to fully print the article. Sometimes I copy and paste things from the web into a word document. I’ll forward your request on to our editor and see if there’s a solution.

  4. not everyone has a “husband” or “kids.” Perhaps your tips should be more inclusive since being alone and feeling unconnected is a big part of feeling blue at Christmas.

    1. In a reply above I agreed with a similar comment. The list is not directed at any one group of people and as a result, some of the items on the list will not fit for any one person. Hopefully, if the holidays are lonely or disconnected, some of the items on the list, such as reading an uplifting book, being kind and gentle towards yourself or deep breathing, will be a better fit. If not, you may find better strategies from PsychCentrals Coping With the Holidays list. Thank you for making your point. In the future I may write a post with strategies more specifically aimed at people who are alone and feeling lonely.

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