Holiday Season Survival 101 - Check Out These 10 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Day-to-Day Life
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
The holiday season is upon us, and, with that inevitable comes stress. As if the holidays aren’t enough, there are other stressors coming at us from every direction-school programs, church programs, end of year work deadlines, school projects and finals. Then, there is this work party and that neighborhood gathering and fitting in traditions like cookie making and caroling and Christmas movie watching night and seeing Santa. Add in the tree getting, decorating, shopping, and wrapping. Don’t forget the Christmas cards requiring an Insta-worthy photo, ordering the cards, stuffing and addressing, and a trip to the post office for the annual purchase of postage stamps for all that snail mail. My blood pressure is going up just writing this, and I barely scratched the surface on this end-of-year layered with holiday cluster of crazy!
Let’s be real; our fast-paced culture already exposes all of us to unneeded stress in our lives. Then, these holidays have a tendency to ramp it up a million degrees. Uncontrolled stress can have damaging effects on our bodies and can contribute to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. One of the best things you can do for yourself to take back your health is learn how to control your stress level. With the holidays being a huge contributor to our feelings of stress combined with looking into the new year for ways to “do better”, stress reduction should be one of everyone’s goals. Here are 10 simple ways to reduce stress not only this holiday season but also in your day-to-day life!
Take a deep breath.
This activates the rest and relaxation part of the nervous system, instantly taking you from revved up to on the road to chill.
I know, this one sounds crazy. Stress activates the fight or flight response. If you are really defending your life, you aren’t going to stop for a meal. So, stress shuts down your digestive tract. By chewing gum, you stimulate the opposite response in your nervous system, shifting you from fight or flight to sit and chill.
Get your laugh on.
You aren’t stressed when you are laughing. Laughing releases those good-old mood-elevating endorphins, making you feel good.
Practice mindfulness and meditation.
Being present in the moment helps you stop stress and activates the rest and relaxation part instead. These can help you have the right perspective and mindset on the situation; choosing, for instance, to be excited rather than overwhelmed.
Get moving with exercise.
This might seem counter-intuitive. Exercise actually helps lower the stress response by releasing endorphins, your body’s “feel good” chemical. Think of it like you are literally “burning off” the stress response.
Scent is a powerful sense. There are many stress-reducing scents like lavender, orange, sandalwood, or rose that can trigger the calming side of the nervous system.
Limit your caffeine intake.
Caffeine revs up your body by increasing heart rate and triggering the fight or flight response. When you are under stress or heading into a stressful season like the holidays, try decaf coffee, tea, or water instead of coffee and soda.
Write it down.
Journal your stresses. Brainstorm how you would deal with them or develop a plan of action. Often, the stress is in the unknown or unexpected so, having a plan, will help make you feel more in control and decrease stress.
Focusing on the positive things in life helps shift away from the fear and negativity. Really want to get the gratitude going? Combine this with #8 and start a gratitude journal. Writing down a few things every morning that you are grateful for will start off your day with a positive and uplifting mood and spirit. It’s nearly impossible to be stressed with that mindset!
Surround yourself with those you love.
Spending time with those you love, and who love and support you, makes you feel a sense of belonging and self-worth. This can trigger your body to release oxytocin, which is a natural stress reliever in your body. And, isn’t this what the holiday season is really about anyway?Here’s a bonus suggestion that will serve you well; practice saying no. You read that right. We all have a tendency to say yes too much. You have a limited amount of time, energy, and resources to give to the world. Know your priorities for where to use up these resources. Saying yes to something that is not in alignment with your priorities means you have to take away the focus from what is. It is okay to say no to something good in order to have the means to say yes to what is great.
Pick one or two of these ideas to start your “destressification” journey. Most of these “destressification” strategies help improve other areas of your life like your mindset or physical health. This isn’t a coincidence, my friends. Total wellness is when your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony. Stress is one of those mega-disruptors that messes up all three. So, the strategies to de-stress will often benefit your whole self. That’s why stress is so destructive, and why taking the time to learn how to de-stress yourself is worth every ounce of time and energy spent. Booting stress from your day-to-day life leaves you joyful, grateful, and at peace. Doesn’t that sound like the best way to enjoy your holidays as well as every day of your life?
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.