Healthier living, one day at a time!

5 Quick Stategies to Reduce Holiday Stress

I always approach the holiday season with some mixed emotions.  I love getting together with family, decorating the house and smelling those great holiday cooking smells.  But there is a part of me that dreads all the additional items on my “to-do” list.   With the holiday shopping crowd, there is no such thing as a “quick trip” to the store.  I never feel like the gift buying is quite done- who did I forget on my list?  We travel to family over the holidays.  Did I remember to cancel the newspaper and schedule the dog for the kennel?  Can I do all this and still create some “special holiday moments” with the family?

With all this going on, it’s no wonder the holidays can be a stressful time for everyone.  Just in time, I read an article by Greg McKowen called “Reduce Your Stress in 2 Minutes a Day.” McKowen identified five powerful tools that can be used to reduce stress:  deep breathing, meditating, listening, questioning and living with purpose. 

1. Deep Breathing

Deep breathing has been shown to be effective in making us more relaxed and calm.  By forcing ourselves to breath slowly and deeply, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn activates the internal organs and glands that allow our body to “rest and digest”.  This is a quick easy step to take during the day when you feel yourself getting stressed.  McKowen suggests starting with 3 deep breathes several times during the day and working up to a several minutes at a time.  Taking 3 deep breathes before beginning your holiday meals will also prepare your body to properly digest and assimilate the nutrients it is about to take in.

2.  Meditation

Meditation is an extension of this deep breathing technique.  By being still, clearing your mind of stressful thoughts and focusing on your breath for a short period of time each day,  you improve not just emotionally, but physically as well, with improved health and digestion. Here is a great list of four meditation techniques that you may want to try. 

3. Listening

McKowen also suggests concentrating on your listening skills. By listening in a more focused manner to others, you open yourself up to more genuine honest communication.  People tend to bond to others more readily when they feel they are truly being listened to, making life “almost immediately…richer and more meaningful.”
“Just because your mind creates
     a thought, doesn’t make it true.”

4. Questioning

Question the thoughts your mind creates. If you determine a troubling thought or idea is just an assumption, not truth, acknowledge its presence and let it go.  It is just a thought that you have created.  It has no power over you unless you allow it to. In this way, you free yourself from the stress it creates.

5. Small Steps

McKowen suggests we use small steps towards achieving these goals. “It’s important because you can’t take on stress in a stressful way. Often we try to bring about change through sheer effort and we put all of our energy into a new initiative. But you can’t beat stress using the same techniques that created the stress in the first place.”

“Instead, the key is to do less than you feel you want to. If you feel like breathing for two minutes, do it for just one minute. If you are up for a day of really listening to people deeply, do it for the next meeting only. Leave yourself eager to try it again. What you want is to develop a sustainable habit: a stress-free approach to reducing your stress.”

Okay, I’m ready to face the holidays stress-free.  How about you?


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