Let’s face it: The “most wonderful time of the year” isn’t without its challenges. To-do lists that are miles long, triple-booked schedules, too many gifts, too little cash … and that’s during a normal year. When so many things are uncertain—as they are nowadays—it’s even more difficult to make those happy holidays a reality.
But even though we may be in the throes of the toughest holidays in recent history, there may be a silver lining, says psychologist Dr. Frank Lawlis, one of the country’s top family counselors. “This might be a great opportunity to say “Let’s be creative, let’s create a new kind of exchange, rather than going through the stress of finding gifts that no one can afford,” Lawlis says. “After all, gifts are about bringing relationships closer. As much stress as you can subtract from that, the better.”
To that end, we’ve gathered ideas from experts and readers to inspire you to make the last weeks of the year less stressful and more soulful. Read on!
In-the-Moment Stress Busters
When something sets you off—a critical comment, a social slight, a scheduling snafu—how do you get a grip? Dr. Lawlis suggests these strategies. Not only do they give you short-term relief, Lawlis says, but research shows that practicing them repeatedly trains your brain to resist what he calls “stress storms.” “You can inoculate yourself against stress,” he says. “It works.”
Chew gum. The act of chewing gum (sugar free, please) pumps blood through the part of your brain most affected by stress, “where your joy is,” Lawlis says, easing anxiety.
Chin up. People who are depressed or stressed-out tend to slump—chest caved in, head down, “like the weight of the world is on their shoulders,” Lawlis says. Reverse that by straightening up: Throw your shoulders back, chest out and chin up. “It’s extremely difficult for you to be stressed in that posture,” he says.
Beat it. Listen to rhythmic music, like drumming, to “train your brain to stay active and away from stress,” Lawlis suggests.
Eat breakfast. A morning meal of complex carbohydrates and protein (think 100% whole wheat toast and a scrambled egg) helps prevent blood sugar highs and lows that “create a rollercoaster of emotions,” Lawlis says.