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How to reduce your stress during the holidays

Are the holidays making you fa-la-la-la-frustrated? Shopping for the perfect gifts, wrapping the presents, baking the feast, mailing the holiday cards, visiting extended family members and trying to keep a bright smile on your face all while doing it can feel overwhelming. With visions of the perfect Christmas dancing in our heads, it’s difficult to stay calm and relaxed, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You should be able to enjoy the season with those you love and save enough energy to pour out a little of that love onto others. If you’re ready to fully embrace the joy of the season and give back to those around you, here are a few tips to reduce stress during the holidays.

Reach out for help.

Sometimes just feeling alone can magnify the heavy weight of stress. In fact, studies have shown that loneliness can elevate stress levels. So, if one minute you’re singing carols and the next minute you’re feeling the pressure of the holidays, reach out to a friend to chat, go for a walk or simply be in the presence of someone else who understands.

You can even plan ahead to be around those you love to combat those sneaky stressful feelings before they creep in. Think of this as proactive stress management. If wrapping a pile of presents tends to overwhelm you, plan an afternoon with a friend to wrap gifts together while talking, sipping coffee and catching up on life. Have a little fun and swap wrapping paper and bows! As you start to make the effort to reach out for mental and emotional support during the holidays, don’t forget to be that safe space for others as well. Check in on your friends who you think might be feeling the fright of the festivities. A simple text message can go a long way.

Be realistic.

As much as we want to see the magic of Christmas come alive in all we do, it’s important to keep realistic expectations, or else we can find ourselves under a pile of ribbon, wish lists and dirty dishes. You may have a million ideas to accomplish during the holidays, but write them all down, and remember it’s OK to save some for the future. For any idea you have to bump to the following year, think of it as planning ahead! Also, setting your expectations too high can actually affect the way you view the present. Research shows that we may not appreciate what we have if we’re always expecting more.

So, instead of planning to give a holiday gift to every person you come in contact with, make a list of the people you know who would most likely benefit from feeling appreciated during the season. These realistic goals will help you feel inspired and excited rather than defeated if you don’t hit your pie-in-the-sky goal. Remember, giving back to a few people is better than feeling stretched so thin and stressed as you struggle to give back many.

Stay on track with healthy habits.

The holiday season tends to be a time when normal life gets turned upside-down. While much of this is exciting with cheerful music, community events and ugly sweater parties, there are certain daily routines that might be beneficial to keep. For instance, while it’s fun to indulge in seasonal sweet treats, don’t abandon all of your healthy eating habits. And while you’ll likely be busy trimming the tree and stringing the lights on the house, try not to forget about your normal exercise routine. Exercise has many health benefits including reducing stress hormones. Rather than ditching your morning walk altogether, invite a few neighbors so you can walk and talk about all the holiday activities happening around town.

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s important to show ourselves compassion and do our best to reduce stress. Showing Everyday Philanthropy to others won’t be possible unless we care for ourselves first. This holiday season, make it a priority to take the steps to keep your stress levels low so you can fully be present for others. Think of it as the gift that keeps on giving!

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