10 Expert Tips For Enjoying A Stress-Free Holiday Season This Year

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woman wearing antlers celebrating Christmas

The holidays inevitably bring a lot of hustle and bustle — in addition to all the comfort and joy. This is when some serious holiday stress tips come in handy.

You might be spending every waking moment getting through the daily grind as it is, not to mention the endless supply of to-do list tasks like shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, cleaning, and dressing up.

Sure, gatherings are fun — most of them — so the extra effort can feel like it's worth it at the time. 

The trouble is that too much running around, indulging in holiday fare, lack of sleep, and unearthed emotions can burn you out faster than you can sing "Deck The Halls."

RELATED: 7 Tips For Banishing Holiday Stress This Year

Holiday stress tips are real self-care solutions. 

On top of the busyness and the celebrations, the festive season often brings a range of challenging emotions like anxiety, sadness, frustration, missing loved ones, and shame about not measuring up.

Celebrating during a pandemic can provide a whole new layer of anxiety. That means you need to give yourself some extra love and compassion.

So, what can you do so your holiday to-do list doesn't cause you to sacrifice your health and happiness?

Give yourself a pause and put in place some self-care strategies right now.

You're trying your best to give your family and friends the best celebrations ever, but you won't accomplish anything if you're too wiped out to enjoy every precious moment.

Here are 10 expert holiday stress tips to help you enjoy the celebrations this year.

1. Sing.

Whether it's singing in the shower or while you're doing the dishes, or participating in your kids’ school virtual assembly, take time every day to sing your heart out.

Science says it makes you happier, in one way by activating your vagus nerve and triggering your parasympathetic nervous system. This can promote wellbeing and a sense of belonging.

2. Take a nature walk.

The perfect time to go for a brisk walk is before winter's deep freeze.

Bundle up, grab hot cocoa to go, and enjoy the beauty of the season: dazzling lights, the scent of pine, and crunching leaves or light snow beneath your feet.

3. Get your sleep.

As much as you want to stay up to watch another holiday movie, have one more plate of treats, dance until dawn at your annual holiday bash, or stay up wrapping gifts, your body needs its rest.

Better to turn in at a decent time, than wake up with a migraine, puffy eyes, or a horrible virus.

4. Diffuse some essential oils.

It's amazing what a quick swipe of a rollerball or some home diffusing of essential oils can do for your mood.

Try some classic sweet and spicy scents like cinnamon, clove, orange, and frankincense, along with peppermint to uplift your spirits and energize you to keep shopping and cleaning until it's all done! 

Bonus: you’ll fight germs and boost your immune system at the same time.

5. Indulge in some mood-boosting foods.

By eating "happy foods" that involve the right nutrients and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, you actually can eat your way to health and happiness over the holidays.

The list includes nuts, cherries, spinach, fish, oatmeal, espresso, and yes, even dark chocolate. Don't feel guilty saying "yes" to these foods, because it's for your self-care. Seriously.

RELATED: 5 Simple Ways To Beat Holiday Stress And Spend Quality Time With Family

6. Find some mindful moments.

It might not be realistic to sit for a 20-minute meditation when you're trying to squeeze in more errands.

But, sipping your morning coffee mindfully, playing with Scruffy in the yard for a few extra minutes, or snuggling with your partner under the covers before you dash out the door may be all you need to get you appreciating the small pleasures.

7. Start a small yet impactful gratitude practice.

Put a gratitude journal or a small notebook on your bedside table. Start small, jotting down one thing that makes you feel thankful every morning.

When you've made it a habit, you can graduate to building a more extended list, or ditch the list idea altogether just for the holidays because who needs another list right now?

8. Do some good deeds.

Kindness matters to others, and according to science, it does you good, too. Not only does it make you feel like you're helping someone else, it reduces your stress, improves your physical health, makes you happier — it even makes you live longer.

So, offer to pick up a neighbor’s groceries, donate to the food bank, give a homeless person a blanket, make a child smile with a special gift, and grow your heart two sizes at the same time.

9. Set boundaries.

Often you think you need to do it all. Who says? Manage your expectations for the holidays, as well as everyone else's. Consider cutting back on the number of events or their duration, so you don't feel like you're stuck on a hamster wheel.

Protecting your energy is especially important for introverts who get quickly drained by long social engagements where they need to keep up a façade.

It's truly OK to say "no" to a dinner party or gift exchange. No reasons are required. (Anyway, Covid can be your reason this year).

When you're at events, be sure to spend quality time with the people who feed your soul, instead of the ones who make you feel less than perfect. 

10. Ask for help.

The most critical strategy over the holidays, and any time of year, is to ask for help when you need it. Even better, ask for assistance before you need it.

Support can translate into the kids decorating the mantle or tree, your partner doing some of the shopping, or calling a friend for some ideas or much-needed moral support.

Help could also come in the form of taking a quick nap or a bubble bath to recharge, or calling a hotline if things get to be too much.

People who care are out there. Give a little help and you'll get it back in spades.

Even if you're super busy this time of year, with a little more self-care, you can ease your stress and get you enjoying all that the holidays offer.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Reduce Stress At Family Holiday Gatherings (And Keep Your Sanity!)

Lisa Petsinis is a certified coach (ACC) who empowers women to ditch overwhelm and guilt and reclaim their joy doing what they love. Visit her website to learn more about her signature services.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.