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7 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress and Be More Cheerful During the Holidays

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress and Be More Cheerful During the Holidays
Image by
Jan Tik (license).

“Joy is not in things; it is in us.”
Benjamin Franklin

“May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart!”
Eskimo proverb

The holidays are here with family, friends, gifts and lots of tasty food. It can be a great time to just relax and enjoy the company of the people closest to you. But it can also sometimes be a source of stress and negativity.

So you may like a few tips that can quickly change how you feel and think. A few tips that help you to relax and turn a negative mood into a more positive one. Here are six of my favourite tips for doing just that.

1. Be grateful for two minutes.

Where you put your focus does to a large degree determine how you feel and think. Focus on the stress and how hard everything is and you will feel and think about just that. Focus on the positive things in your life right now and you will feel a lot better and think happier thoughts. Your day becomes lighter.

One of the quickest ways to shift your focus is simply to appreciate the positive things in your life right now. To be grateful for what you have. Maybe it’s your health, the snowy weather, your family and friends, the tasty food you will be eating, the snowman you made yesterday, the great and fun times you have had during the year, the wonderful things you accomplished and the lessons you learned when you things didn’t quite go your way.

If you’re feeling negative or stressed out use just two minutes in your day to reflect upon things that you are grateful for. It’s a small and quick thing to do but it can have a big effect on your mood – it’s hard to not feel like smiling after those two minutes :) – and how you view your life.

2. Take 30 belly breaths.

This is the quickest and most consistent way to relax that I have found so far. It’s great way to release pent up tension and to centre yourself in the present moment once again as you bring your focus to the in and out breaths.

Here’s what you do:

  • Sit in a relaxing position with your legs apart.
  • Put your hands on your stomach. Using your stomach breathe in slowly through your nose. If you are doing it right your stomach will expand and you’ll feel it with your hands.
  • Breathe out slowly through your nose.
  • Breathe in and out 30 times. Take deep and slow breaths.
  • That’s it. Continue with your day.

3. Take it easy.

Nothing wrong about wanting things to be nice for the holidays. But if you are thinking that everything has to be perfect and it’s stressing you out, consider letting go a bit of that perfection. A nice and light mood within you and in your world is more valuable to everyone than having all the things lined up just right.

If you are feeling totally stressed out and wrapped up in everything you “have to do”, ask yourself: “Will this matter in 5 years?”. This is of course not an excuse for you to not do anything. But a reminder that the small things we get wrapped up in when we feel stressed are often not that important when you view it from a wider perspective.

4. Do just one thing at a time.

Single tasking and focusing on doing just one thing at a time not only decreases stress but from my experience gets things done a whole lot quicker than if you multitask. This does not just apply during office hours but is also a useful approach in just about every part of your life.

5. Eat slower.

The holidays is a time when many of us eat some tasty food and often a lot of it too. A wonderful way to enjoy all that food a bit more and also avoid eating too much of it over the next few weeks is to simply eat slower.

It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. That’s because the food has to reach the intestines before your body starts sending signals telling your brain that you feel full. By slowing down your eating your brain can stop you before you eat too much.

One tip that can help you to slow yourself down is to put down your fork between the bites. Simply put down your fork and then chew. Then pick up your fork again after you’ve swallowed, take another bite and repeat the process.

I like this tip because it forces you to slow down. Instead of taking that stressed energy from your day and just letting it power through the meal too as you quickly wolf down everything on your plate.

6. Find the opportunity hidden within the problem.

There may be conflicts. There may be stress. There may be parts of the holidays that you don’t feel so good about.

One thing about problems/challenges is that we often focus on the bad part of them. But there is almost always a good part too. Or at least an opportunity within the problem. Perhaps it teaches us to be more patient or become more empathic.

Finding this more positive part of the problem reduces its negative emotional impact and you may even start to see the situation as a great opportunity for you. When you are faced with a problem during the holidays ask yourself:

What is the good thing about this? What can I learn from this? And what opportunity can I find within this problem?

Or try asking yourself (in any just about any situation): What’s awesome about this?

7. Just accept how you feel right now.

Maybe you try out some of the tips above. And they still can’t help you to shake that negativity you are carrying around. I would then suggest just accepting that it is there. To tell yourself: “This is how I feel right now and I accept it”.

This sounds counterintuitive and like you’re giving up. However by accepting how you feel instead of resisting it you reduce the emotional energy that you are feeding into this conflict/problem. It tends to just kinda lose speed like a car that runs out of fuel. And oftentimes it becomes so weak after while that it just moves out of your inner focus.

This may be a good time to use the first tip in this article to flood your focus with gratitude and positivity.

What is your best tip for creating a more relaxed and cheerful mood during the holidays?

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  • Ulla Hennig December 22, 2008, 12:49 pm

    Thanks for the post! I especially like taking 2 minutes to reflect on the good things. Today, after many days of darkness, the sun is shining and I can see a blue sky from my working room window. Isn’t that something to be grateful for?

  • Andy H December 22, 2008, 11:37 pm

    These are some great tips!
    Other things I like to kick me out of a mood is to imagine bumping into myself in my current state, how would I view myself?
    It’s a sort of “third person” perspective trick, you quickly realise how silly a lot of your worries are.

    Also to aid in eroding the bad mood it is fun to pull yourself out of your mind by increasing empathy. Everything you say to people focus on how you want them to feel rather than how you are currently feeling. What you give you receive and your mind soon fills up with more loving and kind thoughts.

    The seventh point you make is a great one. What you fight you strengthen and what you resist persists; stop feeding your bad mood with more thoughts about the mood! Explore the feeling more, how is it affecting your decisions and thought patterns?

    It’s fun to try different methods to break moods you don’t need anymore.

  • Small Footprints December 23, 2008, 2:08 am

    Thank you, Henrik, for this post … it’s an important reminder during a time that should be fun but often is full of stress.

    I want to wish you a Merry Christmas …and thank you for giving us something positive with each of your posts!

    Small Footprints
    http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com

  • Vincent December 23, 2008, 4:43 am

    Hi Henrik,

    Doing one thing at a time instead of multi tasking will definitely help us to reduce our stress. Imaging juggling 5 balls or 1. Which will be more stressful? :)

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  • Arswino December 23, 2008, 12:10 pm

    Great tips, Henrik.
    Sometimes I did many task concurrently and it made me having a lot of stress.
    I also like your first point : be grateful for two minutes. I believe if we always be grateful on all we have or anything befall us instead, it will be very helpful for our stress relief.

  • Tess The Bold Life December 23, 2008, 3:10 pm

    I love the 30 belly breaths. I never knew how many to do and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. Duh!

  • LifeMadeGreat - Juliet December 23, 2008, 5:27 pm

    Hi

    I come up with a list of things that I love to do. Feeling a bit grim? Check out the list for some indulgence.

    Thanks for looking at this topic. I think it is a problem that many people face, but we are told we are supposed to be “happy” over this time. Like you say “accept how you feel”

    Juliet

  • Karen December 23, 2008, 9:10 pm

    I find it helpful to write down what I’m grateful for. I bought myself a beautiful journal to write them in. Not only can I reflect on what I’m happy about now, but I have two years of happy memories at my fingertips.

    My discovery of this website found its way into my journal. :-)

    Karen

  • Mark | Life Empowerment December 24, 2008, 1:52 am

    Personally, I prefer to reduce stress and cheer myself up by watching comedies and/or listening to some soothing music. I think this is an excellent way to draw myself away from the stress and relax my mind.

    A good head or body massage is great too! :)

    Cheers~

    Mark
    http://mark-foo.com

  • Tcm007 December 24, 2008, 3:16 am

    I think these are wonderful suggestions, but I have one more. Get some acupuncture! It is a wonderful way to de-stress. Happy Holidays!

  • Brian December 24, 2008, 5:54 pm

    I enjoyed your list! This time of the year is really full of ups and downs so it is important to have tools at your disposal to deal with whatever comes our way.

    I like the last tip – accepting how we feel right now. I have so much trouble doing this, I always want to feel great and beat myself up when I don’t. But really there is nothing that we do that will GUARANTEE we feel good at any moment, so learning acceptance is something that can help us no matter what situation arises.

    Happy holidays!

  • Damien December 26, 2008, 11:34 pm

    Simple and great. I have found the “do one thing at a tine” to be the most profound as far as eliminating stress and increasing productivity.

  • Henrik Edberg December 27, 2008, 12:53 pm

    Thanks for all your comments and added tips. Hope you all are enjoying the holidays. :)

  • Benji December 29, 2008, 7:59 pm

    Wow. That first rule was so simple and awesome. Take 2-minutes? Who would have ever thought that would work but it does. It works like a charm! When you said this it summed it all up way to perfectly, “It’s a small and quick thing to do but it can have a big effect on your mood”.

    I also saw an editorial piece in that new motivational magazine Heavy Hitters and it was good but not quite as concise and to the point. Still a great read.