10 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress + Enjoy the Season
It’s almost the holiday season and you know what that means: hot cocoa and white lights and anxiety, amiright?! With these 10 simple tips to help you reduce holiday stress naturally (no Xanax required!)–from spending time with family, to time management, to supplement recommendations and more–this year you’ll actually enjoy the season!
UPDATE: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated to reflect new information.
With Halloween passing by last week, we’re now already in prep mode for Thanksgiving. Then it’s the madness of December, and soon it’s January and the holidays have come and gone before we even knew what was happening.
It’s the same every year–at least for me. It all speeds by in one chaotic blur.
And as much as I love the holiday season–and I do (I swear, nothing makes me happier than looking at our Christmas tree’s twinkling lights and covering every possible square inch of our house with fresh greenery and poinsettias and Christmas plaid, baking gingerbread cookies and sipping hot cocoa (okay, fine, spiked hot cocoa), writing our annual Christmas card poem and gathering around the fire place with my friends and family as Bing Crosby croons in the background)–it’s just plain stressful.
There’s so much to do, and so little time, and I often find myself wanting to scream, “We’re having fun, dammit!”. Ya know what I mean?
If you can relate (please come on, tell me I’m not the only one who struggles with anxiety during the holidays), fear not! Because I’ve come up with a plan to reduce holiday stress and actually (finally!) enjoy the season.
AND these are all natural, healthy, festive and, most importantly, *EASY* ways to channel your inner Cindy Lou Who (no Xanax required!) Who’s with me?
10 Easy Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress Naturally
Plan In Advance
Clearly I’m all about planning ahead as when this post was first published it was the end of September and I was already writing a post about holiday stress.
But in all seriousness, start early. It’s the best way to ensure you’re prepared for everything you’ll have coming up this holiday season.
Lists are your best friends–write everything down that you’ll need to do: shopping, baking, decorating, hosting parties, sending cards, cooking dinners.
And then actually schedule each of these activities into your calendar, as if they were a non-negotiable task, just like your job or parenting duties are.
Even better: take a vacation day or two from work to knock out the biggest priorities on your list early. That way, when the holidays actually get here, you can enjoy them and not be running around like a mad woman screaming about gingerbread.
Obviously not everything can be done ahead of time–I don’t know of anywhere selling Christmas trees in October–but most things can.
Cookies can be made and frozen in advance. Gifts can be purchased and wrapped TODAY literally (and hello, with Amazon, it’s never been easier to shop!). Holiday decor can be brought down from the attic or in from the garage and sorted through so you know what you need to buy. Parties can be planned, invitations designed, meal plans made, photos for your holiday card shot, etc. as early as you need them to be.
There’s no time like the present.
Take adaptogenic supplements
While prescription medication can be a lifesaver when it comes to, well anything, y’all know I’m all about taking the natural, holistic route first… That goes for stress management, especially holiday stress management.
And good news! There are tons of natural supplements that can reduce anxiety, stress and depression.
Some of the most effective are known as adaptogenic herbs–these healing plants balance, restore and protect the body, as they help you respond to stress, recharging your adrenal glands and normalizing your physiological functions. (source)
Don’t be scared–the names might sound a little, er, hard to pronounce, but these plants come in easy-to-take adaptogen supplements.
One of my favorite brands that create high quality, incredibly effectively adaptogenic supplementation options in the form of superfood functional mushroom blends is Four Sigmatic.
Four Sigmatic takes exotic mushrooms, some of the world’s most nutritious foods (and natural adaptogens), and turns them into drink mixes bursting with health benefits, including sleep support, boosted immunity, increased energy and cognitive function, and more!
One of my favorites, the Four Sigmatic Mushroom Hot Cacao Mix, is not only delicious and festive, but full of reishi which supports stress management and restful sleep, antioxidant-rich cacao powder, free from unrefined sweeteners and spices, and is decaf, so can be enjoyed as an evening treat!
I also love Amazing Grass Elixirs because they are bursting with stress-relieving nutrients, plus the six adaptogens listed above, and easy-to-digest organic greens.
Additionally, Amazing Grass’ effervescents are made with an organic blend of alkalizing greens including wheat grass, barley grass, and alfalfa, plus a potent blend of over 30 antioxidant-rich superfoods, which will support your immune system. Which, we all know, is key to a healthy mind.
Speaking of immune system support, one of my favorite supplements for that is a turmeric supplement. My favorite line is Truvani, the first ever USDA certified organic, glyphosate residue-free turmeric supplements. They’re non-GMO, vegan, cruelty-free and regularly tested for heavy metals and other contaminants.
Spend Time With Loved Ones
What better way to calm your mind, relax and unwind than to spend time with your loved ones?
I know that for me, last holiday season, I didn’t do this nearly enough and my health definitely suffered because of it.
But did you know that being in the mere presence of friends and family can actually physically reduce our stress?
It’s true: being around your best friend during a stressful time can decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. (source)
I can vouch for that–it’s why I hosted a girlfriends Christmas party for 15 years, where the adorable Christmas party purses shown above were served.
Studies also show that kissing, hugging and cuddling can increase levels of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and decrease cortisol levels, which can reduce stress.
Even just talking to your mom on the phone can release oxytocin in your brain and help keep you calm.
What’s more? Doing something nice for someone and/or forgiving someone not only makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, it also physically reduces your stress and lowers your physiological stress responses. (source)
So round up your loved ones and have them over for dinner, snuggle up on the sofa for a movie, host a cookie swap, call someone you love, forgive someone you may not, take a walk or a lunch break with a friend or a co-worker and even (dare I say it?!) have sex. Happy Holidays, indeed!
Diffuse Essential Oils
Though there are many stress-reducing properties from specific essential oils, like lavender, citrus oils and Frankincense, since it’s the holidays I recommend going with a more festive blend to aid in reducing holiday stress.
My personal fave: Cinnamon, Cedarwood and Orange. While orange essential oil helps promote relaxation, the sweet and uplifting scent also perfectly balances out the warm and earthy cedarwood, which defends the body against toxins and relieves your immune system of stress. (source)
What essential oil brand do I recommend? I love Plant Therapy–their oils are 100% pure, free from any additives, adulterants, or dilutions. Their essential oils come in varieties like synergies, singles, organic, and pre-diluted roll-ons, and their facility is USDA Certified Organic. Their prices are also super reasonable, plus you can get 10% off your order of $50 or more sitewide with the coupon code ROOT10!
I have a round-up of my favorite essential oil diffusers for you. Fill one – or all – of these with a few drops of high quality, stress-reducing essential oils and your home smell incredible, thus your mood will feel joyful!
There’s nothing like the chaos of the holidays and never-ending to-do lists to make you realize what’s really important. So this holiday season, I encourage you to adopt a minimalist mentality and embrace simplicity.
What does that look like? It looks like saying no. No, you don’t have to go to every holiday party. No, you don’t have to do everything yourself. No, you don’t have to pack your schedule so full you don’t have time to breathe.
Instead, focus on paring down. What can you say no to? We only have a limited amount of time and energy to give, so think about what really matters to you and let go of the rest. Less is more!
Don’t over-schedule or over-commit, practice saying no, and, for the love of all things eggnoggy, delegate and accept help. You’re not alone!
Eat Healthy Comfort Food
There’s never been a better time to nourish your body with healthy comfort food. I’m a firm believer in two things when it comes to holiday eating (or really, just eating in general):
1) Sometimes, within reason, the stress and deprivation you feel from missing out on delicious food is worse than the consequences you’ll have if you just eat it.
2) There are so many healthy twists you can put on classic comfort food dishes. So, don’t feel like you have to give up all of your holiday favorites.
Here are a few to get you started:
- Gluten-Free Meatloaf (pictured above)
- The Creamiest Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Healthy + Easy Eggnog Recipe (Sugar Free!)
- Easy + Healthy Vegetable Soup
- Paleo Spaghetti & Meatballs
- Healthy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte (Vegan + Gluten-Free)
- Vegan Apple Pie Green Protein Smoothie (GF)
- No Bake Energy Bites: Pumpkin Pie Protein Balls (Gluten-Free)
- Blueberry & Bacon Zucchini Muffins (Gluten-Free)
- Easy Pumpkin Bolognese Pasta Sauce (Gluten-Free)
- Easy, Creamy Cauliflower Soup (Paleo)
- Skinny Peppermint Mocha Smoothie
- Lactose-free French Onion Dip
- Pumpkin Pie Ketogenic Fat Bombs (Paleo)
- Vegan Gingerbread Green Smoothie
Make Time for Self-Care
I’m a big proponent of taking time every day to do something just for you, whether that’s taking a walk, reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle, playing the piano, or even just watching Netflix.
We can work, work, work all we want, but productivity is no way to measure our self-worth, nor is it the key to happiness. Not when there’s so much living to do.
So this holiday season, I encourage you to make time for self-care every. single. day. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
I listed some of my favorite ways to unwind above, but getting a good night’s sleep, taking an Epsom salt bath (pictured above), exercising, practicing yoga, meditating and just spending time outdoors soaking up some sunshine are also great ways to take care of yourself and reduce holiday stress.
I know, we just talked about how we need to learn how to say no and unschedule our calendars this season. But did you know that volunteering may also reduce stress?
It makes sense–not only does doing something nice for someone else make us feel better (as we learned above) but volunteering to help those less fortunate can also really put things in perspective in our own lives.
There’s no better way to feel like your life is great than to spend time with the homeless, the hungry, the sick. It naturally forces us to realize how good we have it (what with a place to live, food to eat and our health). Gratitude is one of the fastest ways I’ve found to reduce stress.
So donate to a food drive, help out at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, visit a sick hospital patient, deliver food to those in need, round up some toys to donate to Toys for Tots or even write a check to your favorite charity. You’ll feel instantaneously better, I promise!
Do a Digital Detox
One of the quickest roads to anxiety I know is checking my inbox and social media.
This holiday season, try taking a digital detox. Maybe it’s just for a few hours every day. Maybe it’s for a week. Mayyyybe you get crazy and delete Instagram from your phone for an entire month!
Can you imagine?! The crazy thing is, the world wouldn’t end just because you stopped mindlessly scrolling through strangers’ photos that likely either a) make you feel bad that your life isn’t as exciting as theirs or b) you don’t even actually care about this person and can’t even remember why you started following them in the first place.
Unfollow all of those accounts at the very least. Even better if you delete some social media apps from your phone for the season. Or maybe just try logging yourself out, so that every time you want to check your feed, you have to log back in. It’s a great way to catch yourself and make you question “Do I really want/need to check this right now?”
Instead, give that friend a call. Schedule a time to meet up with them. Send them a text just to say hey and see how they’re doing. As we learned above, actual communication and quality time will make you feel so much better anyway!
Listen to Music
Sometimes, when I’m in a bad mood or I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious, I pop in my headphones and head outside for a walk. I swear to you, it is one of the fastest ways I know to lift my spirits.
Especially when I listen to this song.
Plus, it’s scientifically proven that music is an extremely effective stress management tool. Not only does the soothing power of music have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, but depending on the tempo, you can literally alter your emotions in a matter of seconds. (source)
Faster music can make you feel more alert and concentrate better. Upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. A slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day.
So pump up the jams–and don’t be ashamed to blast a little Mariah Carey All I Want For Christmas Is You. You know you love it!
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
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