Preventing Tinsel Tension: Stress Strategies for the Holiday Season

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We’re in the thick of it: the bliss and blitz of the holidays. But “the most wonderful time of the year” can often be laden with apprehension and worry.

Holiday stress is very common in the U.S., affecting approximately 69 percent of women and 55 percent of men. Anxiety over finding just the right gifts, hosting the holiday hoopla and fretting over family events might require extra attention to our mental health. Here are a few ideas to add more fun to the festivities.

Manage Expectations
What we expect may not be what we get, or anything near it. We can imagine what a perfect holiday season looks like, but often reality says otherwise. If we accept the holidays for what they are, wonderful, chaotic and sometimes far from perfect, it can be a very merry season.

Movement Can Be Magical
You’re not going to read about stress at the holidays and not hear about exercise. That’s because it is proven to help. Studies show that getting your sweat on reduces stress hormones, stimulates the production of endorphins, which improves focus, and enhances overall cognitive function. If the family stress meter is rising, plan a walk or yoga session with a few of your favorite people. If you prefer exercising on your own, try an online fitness class, facetime your trainer or use an app to get the heart pumping.

Tech Help
Technology can be a big help when it comes to stress. Yuletide users can download calming apps, relaxation timers and sensory videos to help with holiday insomnia. All we need to do is turn to our wrist, phone or laptop to reap the relaxation rewards. Apps and online tools can be a significant source of self-care, whether it’s a televisit with a counselor or a mindless game that takes our attention off the holiday grind.

The number of wearable fitness products that measure physical and psychological health, emotional awareness and sleep quality has increased dramatically in the past few years. Until recently, this technology concentrated results on algorithms based on static population-based information. Now, more and more watches, bracelets and bands are using mini sensors, integrated processing and artificial intelligence. The good news is that technology can track when we’re stressed so we can learn to anticipate the negative stuff. Once we feel more balanced and energized, we can start addressing those holiday cards.

Merry Meditation
We busy little elves can now meditate with brain-sensing headsets like Muse™ that give live feedback while guiding the user through meditations. The plastic headband that fits on the wearer’s forehead may look funny, but reviewers say it works. The sensors on the band monitor heart rate, body movement and report brain data after each session.

Me Time
When you’re weary of hearing yet another unseemly joke from Uncle Earl, ditch the Christmas bingo and try some self-care. Whether it’s occupying yourself with a quiet game of Words with Friends® or reading a few chapters of your favorite book, solitude can be relaxing and an easy way to banish the blahs. Gamers can find specific games for stress management, so play away!

Ever felt mesmerized by a simple sound or video? ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is hot on TikTok and other social media outlets. ASMR is a feeling of euphoric tingling and relaxation that can come over us when we watch people doing incredibly simple, quiet, calming tasks such as folding towels, brushing hair or flipping through magazines. Hearing a soft voice or listening to background sounds of rain or light scratching can calm the body and lower the heart rate, promoting sleepiness as those sugar plums dance in our heads.

Home Helpers
Stress can be abundant in our homes over the holidays, but what about when we are traveling to Grandma’s house? These days, innovative smart-home devices such as security cameras, safety monitors, smart thermostats and garage door openers make leaving home hassle free. The extra security and notifications to our smart devices can ease the mind and make holiday travel a little jollier.

Use The Help
If trying some of these tension lifters for the holidays sounds promising, consider choosing just one to start; no need to create even more holiday hassle. And while we may not be able to completely avoid stressful situations during the sensational season, we can plan ahead and avoid unforeseen Yuletide pressure.

Sometimes we just need to relax and accept the craziness of the holidays. But if you don’t want to tackle the traditions without a good fight, then consider the benefits of trying a few stress relief tips. You may find ways to reduce the tension from the tinsel and feel rested and energized, ready to take on the new year!