This article was supposed to be finished on November 30th so I could post nice little daily tips on how to avoid holiday stress. Well, it’s December 12th – a mere 13 days before the big day and, um….I’m running a little behind. So much for being a hyper-organized Martha Stewart disciple.
For the first time since Jim and I got married, we have a home large enough to host our family Christmas celebration. We’re expecting ten people for brunch on the 26th. Am I stressed? NOPE. There’s a certain something that’s come over me as I’ve matured. No longer do I care about impressing the in-laws or creating the perfect table-scape. I won’t be fresh squeezing orange juice and I’m not making personalized place cards for the table. (It’s buffet time Baby!) I did all that during marriage number one and can’t, in all honesty, say that any of my wigging out made the holidays any better.
Nevertheless, sometimes it’s good to step back and remember some of the little things we can do to help ourselves maintain that zen vibe.
Stand Tall – Research shows that standing in a yoga-like power pose for just two minutes reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
Curl Up – With a book (not in a stress-bomb fetal position…very un-yoga like!) Allow yourself the luxury of a good read. Who says summer is the only time for mindless beach reads? Losing yourself in a great story – even if it’s only for ten minutes – can drop that heart rate and slow the breathing.
Say Cheese – I suck at this one, but the Journal of Psychological Science claims that even faking a smile can put you on the road to genuine smiles :D
Make Lists – You don’t need to go overboard, but good old lists – whether on the back of a napkin, inked onto your palm or managed with your favorite smartphone app – can definitely help you stay at least minimally organized.
Break Tradition – If you’re the one hosting a holiday get together, it’s your gig. Norman Rockwell won’t roll over in his grave if you don’t serve a five course meal complete with those damn homemade place cards. Whether it’s a big pot of homemade soup, Spanish tapas or takeout Chinese, who cares? The holidays should be about getting together with loved ones – not whipping yourself into a frenzy in the kitchen.
Delegate – Control freaks have a very difficult time with this one, however as a recovering CF, take it from me. Your life will be much easier if you let someone else bring the dessert or set the table. Is it exactly the way you would have done it? Maybe not; but I’ll bet no one noticed but you!
Get Outdoors – Speaking as someone who hates being cold, this is a tough one but it’s well worth the effort. Studies show (and I’ll personally vouch for this one) a walk outdoors can have a 50% greater impact on mental and physical well-being than a trip to the gym. Bundle up and get out there. Hat-head is sexy!
Love that Pup (or kitten) – Snuggling with your favorite furry friend is a win-win. Your pet is happy because you’re the oh so benevolent hero offering the belly rubs and chin scratches. Your body will thank you too as your blood pressure and pulse rate drop to manageable levels.
Dance and Sing – Whether you need only a hairbrush and man’s button down (dating myself with the Risky Business reference here) to get your groove on, or you prefer your favorite guilty pleasure mp3s and headphones while puttering around the house, moving, singing and dancing are fantastic stress reducers. It’s almost impossible to stew and worry when breaking out in song. A hint for you earbud singers, though….this is best done in private. Subjecting your significant other to your voice sans musical backup can be a relationship deal breaker.
Say YES to Chocolate – A recent study concluded that eating 1.4 oz of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduces levels of stress hormones in healthy adults. Woo Hoo!!!
In conclusion, ultimately, we tend to create a lot of our own stress. Sometimes simply deciding you’re “not going to take it anymore” is the best approach to taking the edge off the stress and actually enjoying time with friends and family.