9 Science-Backed Ways to Reduce Stress During the Holidays
However, nothing should ruin an opportunity to eat, drink and have fun with friends and family, especially around the most magical time of the year. That's why we've rounded up the nine most efficient (may we add, science-approved) ways to reduce stress during the holidays.
1. Take Deep Breaths
Are the holiday party duties weighing you down? Then, take a moment to breathe! According to research(1), taking deep breaths lowers cortisol levels in your body, reducing stress and anxiety along the way. Not only that but breathing slowly(2) can also decrease your blood pressure and help you get rid of holiday stress sooner than later.
2. Switch to Tea
Sipping on spiked hot chocolate or wine is part of the holiday fun, no doubt. But, a little too much of the thing can actually do more harm than good. In fact, rather than “calming your nerves,” excessive drinking can significantly lower the brain's resistance to stress(3).
An easy way to avoid this is to switch to tea. Black tea(4), in particular, is reported to reduce post-task stress, while contributing to stress recovery. That means that there's finally an accessible, healthy way to relax after a stressful holiday shopping spree or a last-minute cooking craze.
3. Listen to Seasonal Tunes
Stressing over the holiday menu? Then, turn up the music and let the ideas flow. Experts(5) claim that listening to relaxing music slows down your heart rate and reduces blood pressure and anxiety. That occurs because music triggers various anxiolytic mechanisms(6) in the body, which are usually suppressed in the presence of stressors. So, now you have another reason to crowd your house with those cheery holiday tunes.
4. Light Those Scented Christmas Candles
Even though they're often ignored, certain scents,(7) such as lavender, can work wonders on stress. From sparking pleasant childhood memories to evoking certain emotions, these scents trigger parts of the nervous system which are related to calmness and relaxation. So, next time you're feeling overwhelmed with your holiday to-do list, light a couple of scented candles and let the soothing scents take it from there.
5. Get Moving
OK sure, working out is a surefire way to sculpt a wow-worthy physique. But, it turns out that there's so much more to exercise(8) than we thought. Taking a walk or pounding the pavement for a quick jogging sesh can also help you cope with all the holiday stress. That occurs because physical activity boosts norepinephrine(9) levels, an organic chemical that regulates the brain's response to stress(10). So, it's high time you sweat your way to stress-free holidays.
6. Get A Good Night's Sleep
While nothing says Christmas quite like a festive, late-night party, it may not be the best way to reduce your holiday stress. According to research(11), people who don't get enough sleep tend to be more stressed than those who do. That happens because the brain repairs itself as you sleep. As a result, you interfere with certain parts of the brain and increase stress. Quick power naps(12) are also a great way to tackle holiday stress, since they lower cortisol levels and eliminate stress.
7. Skip That Second Cup of Coffee
It's no secret that coffee (caffeine, in particular) can enhance mood and alertness, but only when consumed in moderation. That said: a daily cup of Joe can help you go the extra mile if you struggle to take care of everything just in time for the holidays. However, if you're already experiencing some sort of uneasiness, you should not go overboard with this brain juice. One cup is enough. Otherwise, uneasiness may turn into severe anxiety or stress.
With that in mind, experts(13) recommend you consume no more than 400mg of caffeine a day, which is the equivalent of a Venti-sized cup of coffee. So, make sure you stick to the recommended dosage to avoid aggravating any pre-existing stress symptoms.
8. DIY Gifts For Your Loved Ones
Based on one recent study(14), engaging in crafts is one of the most efficient ways to reduce stress fuss-free. Not only that, but spending money(15) on your loved ones can boost your happiness, further decreasing your holiday stress. So, rather than letting anxiety take over, why not use it to create thoughtful, personalized gifts for your friends and family? Science says you can!
9. Kiss Stress Away
Your bae is going to love this one. Scientists(16) suggest that kissing can help you ease stress during the holidays. According to the report, locking lips with your significant other triggers the release of several chemicals, such as oxytocin. In their turn, these substances inhibit the activity of stress-causing hormones, including cortisol.
When holiday-induced stress knocks on your door, take a minute to think about the bigger picture. Christmas is not about catching up with time but spending time with your loved ones. So, instead of fixating on getting things done, turn your attention to what really matters and embrace the season's festive spirit with these nine easy tricks. They take seconds to apply, but can help you create happy, long-lasting memories.