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Sacramento Boomer

Ho, Ho, No! 7 Tips To Reduce Holiday Stress

Thanksgiving is over, and Christmas is right around the corner. This year, there are only 27 days in between the two holidays, making the season shorter than it usually is. While it’s a joyful time of year, it’s also stressful, as we try to make time for every party, shop for every present, be present in each moment, and bake all the treats.

We turned to local experts to explain why the holidays can feel overwhelming, as well as share tips on how to manage stress during the most wonderful time of the year.

Gretta Smith, yoga teacher and owner of Ohana Moon Yoga, says the holidays tend to be a stressful time of year because we defy the natural rhythms of nature. “Winter is a season of hibernation with fewer hours of sunlight and more hours of night, which should be devoted to more sleep,” she says. “People fight these primal instincts with caffeine and overstimulation, including overeating, overspending, and overexerting. A lack of sleep plus over-stimulation equals stress.”

A lot of the pressures we feel around the holidays stem from our own internal expectations. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it all,” says Joy Arnold, a 500 E-RYT yoga teacher, reiki master, and holistic health coach. “We need to let go of the image we have in our heads of what the ‘perfect’ holiday is and what we ‘should’ be doing during this time. Instead, we need to allow ourselves to be in the moment and enjoy the true meaning of the holidays: spending time with those you love and appreciating all we have.”

Here are seven suggestions on ways to minimize the holiday stress and put the focus back on feeling grateful and enjoying each moment as it comes.

1) Find Time to Exercise
“Stress starts in the mind; however, we feel it everywhere,” Smith says. “Yoga is a practice that helps connect mind, body, and spirit. When we go into active and passive yoga poses to feel sensation in the body with conscious breath, we’re able to quiet the busy, loud, anxious mind and relieve stress.”

Amitis Pourarian, owner of THE STUDIO Martial Arts & Fitness, says exercise is a huge stress reducer, as it gives a break from having to deal with issues and also provides an outlet for stress. “What’s more, there are endorphins released in the brain as a bi-product of exercise that uplift our mood and our sense of well-being,” she shares.

2) Make a Budget
“Make a budget and stay within it,” Arnold recommends. “No one enjoys giving or can enjoy the holiday when we know we’ve overspent and will have to face it in January. The gift of giving is not about a dollar amount; it’s the intention and energy behind what we give.”

3) Give Back
“Take time for yourself during the holidays to break off and do the things that ground you and bring you joy,” Pourarian says. “Creating space to be of service to others who are less fortunate is a great stress reliever.”

4) Set Goals or Intentions
“Take some quiet time to choose a word or sentence for the holidays,” says Jenifer Novak Landers, a professional certified coach at Fully Expressed Potential. “Let this word drive your commitment to a stress-free holiday. Think about the kind of experience you want to have this year and imagine what kind of person would have an easy time of it. Write the qualities that describe this person, along with the qualities of the experience you want for yourself. From this list, choose one or two that feel the best to you. Mine is ‘resilience.’ I visualize myself in a flow of ease and joy, being fully present to the magic of every single holiday moment. When things get messy or off track, I can return to my word: resilience. I can remember my ability to allow rather than push out of stress or fear.”

5) Try Breathing Exercises
“When we’re stressed, our breath tends to be shallow, erratic, and in the chest. This actually causes the body to release more stressor hormones causing us to be more stressed,” Arnold says. “So try this, no matter where you are: Close your eyes, sit up tall, relax your shoulders, take a deep breath in through your nose and sigh it out your mouth, emptying your lungs completely. Now, bring awareness to the belly, begin to sip the air in through your nose to a count of five, pause the breath, then exhale through the nose slowly to a count of five.”

6) Reframe Your Thoughts
“Being aware of what thoughts or stories you’re telling yourself about the holidays will give you the option to choose a different thought—or to at least think yourself into a neutral place,” Novak Landers says. “There’s so much you can do to shift how you feel by choosing thoughts that are more positive. Another version of this is to choose a thought that makes you feel more love. Ask yourself when the feeling of stress creeps in, ‘What do I need right now to feel loving about myself?’ And then replace your thinking with a running commentary about those answers. You’ll begin to notice a big shift in your energy. Here’s an example of my own thoughts that create stress and how I shift to a better thought that gives me a feeling of calm and positive anticipation for my best holiday season yet. Old thought: I won’t have time to get together with everyone I want to see. New thought: Even though I can’t see everyone, I’m excited to be fully present with those I do get to see and this is a great opportunity to schedule follow up visits in 2020.”

7) Take Time for Yourself
“It can be 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at night, or both! Better yet, make it 30 minutes,” Arnold says. “What you do during this time is your choice. Do whatever helps you to feel at ease, calm, and grounded. Maybe you hit the gym, jump on your mat, or simply sip a cup of coffee outside and just be. The important thing is that you take the time to nourish and recharge yourself. Then, you’ll have the energy and stamina to be present for family, friends, and all the hustle and bustle of the season.” 

By Kourtney Jason