How to Minimize Stress During the Holidays

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[hana-code-insert name=’social down’ /]“May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart!”
Eskimo proverb

The holidays are here. There are Christmas decorations in almost every window, it’s freezing outside and the huge amounts of snow is glittering in the sunlight.

The holidays bring a lot of things. There is great food, awesome presents and wonderful company as you spend time with the people closest to you. But there is also the stress and sometimes negativity that often comes with the holidays.

So you may feel the need to relax and let go of some negativity.

Here are four simple and effective tips for doing just that.

1. Slow down.

First, slow down. Even if it may feel silly and if you have to force it a bit. Slow down your body, move and walk slowly.

Breathe slower and more deeply with your belly (and focus on doing just that for two minutes and see what happens).

Slow down your eating (this will not only help you to relax, it will also help you to not eat too much during the holidays since it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full.)

Slow it all down and pay attention to what you are doing. Be here now and focus on doing just one thing at a time. By slowing down, by being here now, by not having your focus split between many things you, your body and your mind start to relax.

The stress you feel from doing the things does not come from the things, it comes from how you go about doing them.

2. Take it easy with those expectations.

Things take time. Especially around the holidays as stores, roads etc. are overflowing with people. It is just how it is and if you don’t accept that then it’s going to be some stressful and frustrated days ahead.

Take this into consideration when you make practical plans. Realize that things may take longer than you originally planned for.

And realize that even though that Christmas etc. is supposed to be a sort of perfect time of the year nothing will ever be perfect (not for long at least). Striving for or expecting perfection can be pretty dangerous.

Because you will never feel like you, what you do or what you get is good enough. Even though what you do, for example, is just fine 90 percent of the time you still feel deep inside like you are not OK. No matter what you do.

You have set the bar at an inhuman level. If you expect perfection around the holidays – or around any time of the year – then your self esteem will stay low, your stress levels will shoot up and you will feel disappointed even though things may have indeed been very good overall.

3. Tap into gratitude.

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.

Two ways of doing that are:

  • The two minute exercise. 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. Ask yourself: “what can I appreciate in my life right now? and “what can I be grateful for that I may have been taking for granted this year?”.
  • The gratitude journal. Basically the same exercise as above. But here you quickly jot down 5 things you are grateful for in a journal. Do this for a few minutes each day or each week. Review the journal whenever you feel the need. Very simple but effective.

4. Take a break.

Working nonstop can sour your mood and stress anyone out. Slow down but also remember to take breaks. Take 20 minutes or half an hour to just rest.

Take a walk in the crisp and cold winter landscape. Escape via music, a book you got for Christmas or by watching classic holiday movies/TV (I usually watch some of the best Christmas-themed Simpsons episodes around this time of the year like Mr. Plow and Marge Not Be Proud).

Do something that snaps you out of the working, shopping and preparing mindset, even if it is just for while. That short change in scenery and change of mental headspace may be all you need to feel revitalized again.

That’s it. I hope you find something helpful here. Happy holidays everybody!

If you found this article helpful, please share it on Facebook, Twitter and Stumbleupon. Thank you! =)

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • “The stress you feel from doing the things does not come from the things, it comes from how you go about doing them.” – BRILLIANT!

    As I sat in my chair super wired because of the long to do list I get a reminder from Google calendar that the next 45 minutes are to be spent reading newest posts in the blogs I like. The very first post I read is about taking it easy (remember I am super wired at this point).

    After re-reading 1 and 2 a couple of times I am going to get a cup of coffee and shorten my list a bit, as there is no freaking way I am going to complete it well before the end of the day without blowing the lid.

    Thanks for a great and very timely post Henrik.

    To Your Success!

    • Thanks, Sasha. Shorting that list a bit sounds like a relaxing idea and I’m happy that the post came just at the right time for you. :)

  • I love this! I always love a little reminder to take care of myself (slowing down and taking breaks are great ways to do this. I especially love remembering to be grateful. I make a vision book every year – I get a small notebook and cut out images, words, etc. about what I”m creating. I do it in a small book so that I can carry it around with me. When things get hectic, I pull out the book and am reminded about what’s really important. Great reminders – thank you.

    • Thank you! And what a wonderful idea with the book, sounds like a great way to always carry a powerful reminder with you. :)

  • Thank you so much Henrik for sharing those great tips, I loved the “take it easy with those expectations,” I think that is one of the main stressors in everyone’s life, we all sometimes expect too much too soon, and everything that is worthy and valuable takes time and hard work to get it, plus as long as you are positive that you’re doing 100% your part on effort and hard work, the universe will provide for you too. Happy Holidays!!! and congratulations on your success!!

    • Yes, I do think that people’s misguided expectations can ruin a lot of good things in life. And thank you for the kind words!

  • Hi Henrik.

    Setting the bar at a human level does make sense. We have to see when we are setting the bar at an unattainable level, causing us to feel anguish for no reason.

    • Hi Armen!

      Exactly, it is such a pointless and self-hurting habit.

  • Kim

    Absolutely what I wanted today ! I always feel refreshed and revitalized after reading your posts! Stress and negativity is something unpredictable , when it can come and attack you , you never know . At present I’m feeling stressed about something but the last point what you said about taking a break and doing something else , something new which can refresh the mind seems helpful , will try that out.Thanks:)
    Are You Able to Control Your Emotions?
    The test finds out how well you control your emotions

  • Hi Henrik,

    I like that you’ve laid out simple, do-able tips that we can all handle. My favorite is “Tap into gratitude,” as I have found that that is what sets me up for success…in any area. And it makes everything so much nicer and easier! In fact, I had a challenging situation to overcome recently, and thankfully – I remembered the ‘gratitude’ tip. :)

    Happy New Year to you and thank you for the continued wisdom and inspiration!

  • Thanks, Henrik. Enjoyed your thoughts. One thing I’ve taken to doing lately that works wonderfully for me is that when I am feeling stressed out, negative and my mind jabber is making me feel even worse, I tell myself to “Stay Present.” Look around. Is there anything really wrong with this moment. Usually, there isn’t. Usually everything is just fine, except for my mind grumblings.
    “Thanks,” I say to my inner knowing that reminded me to “Stay Present.”

    I am really enjoying your posts.
    Happy New Year,

  • Thanks for the tips! We can all take note at this time of year. And…Happy New Year to all!

  • Nice post, and thanks for sharing this with us! The holidays are a potential minefield of stress at times, especially when there’s so much going on.

    I managed to avoid stress these holidays, hopefully I’ll be lucky next time as well! Take care :-)

  • Just what I needed to hear! thanks < my new site to help college students!

  • The holidays are a time to be with family and friends. To take a look at your life and realize what is really important.

  • This post couldn’t have come at a better time so thank you! By far, taking time to relax is huge for me right now. Life has been crazy and I’ve got to slow down a bit!

    Love what you’re doing at the positivity blog. Clean, sharp, and packed full of value. Thank You!

  • Alot of people don’t realize that we are not machines and not perfect. We try our best around the holidays to set up arrangements. We spend all day cooking food. Call everyone to let them know when to show up. Make sure everyone eats. Entertaining everyone. And cleaning up the mess. This is a very big challenge for anybody to tackle and sometimes we just don’t have enough time to get everything done no matter how hard we try. This is the time when we have to except the fact that we have to either ask for help or just do the best we can without feeling bad about it.
    This last Christmas for example, I got my family together for the first time in two years. We went out to eat because there wasn’t many of us. But it was nice to get everybosy together with no arguments or hassles. In fact everybody enjoyed the time we spent together. But theres no better feeling than spending the holidays with people you really care about and love.

  • Shawn

    I just bought your ARP book! I’m looking forward to reading it tonight :)

    Quick question: how do you create your ebooks in that format? I am involved in the fitness industry and have a few guides myself – but I’d like to increase the aesthetic appeal of them – and they layout of your ARP book is great!

    I look forward to hearing from you :)

    • Hi!

      Thanks for getting the book. Hope you’ll find it useful.

      I create a Word-document in landscape format in Word 2007. I then ad a textbox in the footer of the pages to create the blue sidebar with white text on every page. And I add textboxes with the quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

      That’s about it. Hope that helps.

      • Shawn

        Awesome that’s a great help! I read most of ARP last night and took notes – I’m working on implementing what I’ve learned so far today :)