Stress Management for the Holidays and Beyond

As we all know the holidays can be a time that is full of family, fun, and STRESS! Stress occurs when we perceive that the demands placed upon us outweigh our ability to cope with those demands.  Some stress is good, but when it gets becomes to extreme it can affect our productiveness, relationships and our overall mental and physical health.

It is important that we arm ourselves with tools to help us combat stress.  While having a tool belt full of strategies available is nice, unless we practice those that work best for us we will simply see it as yet another item on the never-ending holiday to-do-list.  Use this list as a ‘jumping off point’ and maybe even add a few of your own.  Start practicing now so that when the holidays begin to bear down on you, you will be able to jump into action with strategies that work best to reduce and manage your stress levels.  


Yes, it’s that simple. Take a 5 minute break wherever you are to focus on your breath.  Sit up straight with both feet on the floor, lay on the floor on your back with one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest, lay on your belly with your head resting to the side, you choose the space that you feel most comfortable and safe. Close your eyes and focus on your inhale and exhale. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head.  Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.  Drop your breath further into your belly and elongate each breath without force.  Let any distracting thoughts float by.


Although meditation seems easy and similar to breathing, it is a skill that requires practice.  Meditation and mindful prayer can help with refocus and relaxing the mind and body.  There are many sources available to assist with guided meditation and practiced mindfulness.  Through meditation people have been able to find a release of the tension and emotions that cause physical stress.  A simple ten minute meditation can have  both immediate and long term effects. Try tuning into your body.  Begin the same way you do when breathing but this time instead of focusing on the breath, mentally scan your body starting at your toes and working your way to the top of your head.  Feel how stress affects each part of your body.  Then start to mentally breath into each area that is holding the stress for a few minutes until there starts to be a release.  To assist with this you may try wrapping a heating pad or a warm towel around your neck or shoulders to start the relaxation process.

Slow Down

Just like developing new nutritional and exercise habits, developing a habit to focus on just one behavior and to be aware of the present can help you feel less tense. Focus on your senses.  Enjoy the taste of every bite of food, enjoy a sunny day, feel the wind on your face, take a moment to breathe in silence.  Spending time in the moment can help us remember to slow down to accept the present and make a focused choice on our future actions.  This can also help us identify when it is essential to step away from what is causing us stress.  Learning how to give ourselves permission to have our own time so that we can regain perspective and feel less overwhelmed.


This may seem like an expected response, especially from us, but the benefits are undeniable.  Remember that your health is important.  Don’t let your to-do-list and holiday schedule cut into your exercise routine.  Create your schedule and stick to it to stay on track and stay healthy.  Be mindful, however, when you are experiencing high levels or prolonged stress this would not be the time to choose extreme forms of exercise as your body does not need more stress.  Taking a 20-30 minute walk can provide a great physical outlet and a release to the mind.  


Talk to your family and friends to share your concerns about the holidays. Their thoughts may give you a new perspective on how to best manage your stress. Spend time with your family and friends, especially those that bring you joy. Laugh! When people are stressed they often hold their stress in their face and neck.  Laughing and smiling relaxes those muscles and this can help alleviate stress, not to mention, it feels good!   

Be Grateful

Journal.  Create a gratitude journal and write at least one thing that you are grateful for that happened throughout your day.  This can help you remember all of the good that surrounds you.  

Join Us

Let us help you get started by joining our Holiday Streaker program.  Not only can it help you remain on track by focusing on movement and breathe but it also is a way to give back to your community through your $20 donation.  Follow this link to get started!

author: Cara Flynn


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