Our Secrets for Stress-Free Holidays

Stress | | December 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm


Photo by Steve and Jemma Copley.

Want to be the calmest, brightest, happiest guest at your holiday parties this year? You don’t need a pill. Read this round-up and find out how our authors handle the stress of the season.

dec_09_stress_giftsChristine Dionese L.Ac. on the truth about shopping: Ever look around the house and wonder, where did all this stuff come from? You’re on to something. Will giving your girlfriend a designer handbag actually make her happier? Probably not. Forget the Fendi and surprise her with a homemade Italian dinner instead! Or a trip to Italy where they’re made, if you have the budget for it. Cool studies show that folks who spend their savings on activities rather than stuff remain happier longer and report feeling more alive. This holiday season, ditch the stress of shopping for all that stuff and experience real life with your loved ones.

  • The family. Bringing the whole family together for a night of ice-skating, snowboarding, or winter camping. Don’t forget to pack the hot chocolate and marshmallows!
  • The significant other. Have some quality time to spare? Plan a holiday adventure for memories that never fade. If your budget is small or you only have a few days to get away then book a night or two at a local hotel with a pool!
  • The parents. Gift them with dance lessons. Keep them fit while turning the tango!
  • The siblings. Enroll your brothers and sisters in a cooking class for the new year. What better time to engage in learning how to cook new healthy meals while sharing the time with your siblings.
  • Strangers. Help make other people happy this season by volunteering some of your time. Orphans and the elderly find themselves particularly lonely this time of year. Get the kids out to play in the snow, or offer to take a group of elderly folks Christmas caroling and to see a play. The few hours you spend will put a smile on everyone’s face for weeks to come and make you feel good too.
  • Your best friend. He, or she, is probably stressing out about the holidays so splurge on a massage and yoga lesson for you and your bff to do together. Amidst all of the holiday chaos you can retreat with your pal, take the time to relax, revitalize, and catch up. Don’t wait until the gift exchange day, give now.

dec_09_stress_foodAmy Chitwood L.Ac on food allergies at a potluck: It may be the most magical time of the year but trust me, eating foods that make you feel bad are not going to make you feel better this month! So it’s very important to recognize that if you have food allergies or sensitivities, you shouldn’t make exceptions during the holidays. If your symptoms of IBS, congestion, or headaches return because you ate cheesecake or had that glass of wine, you’ll only feel more stressed.

  • Ask! Rule number one is to always ask what is in food or how it was prepared. Dairy and gluten can hide in so many places!
  • Bring! If you cook your own food and drinks and bring them to share with the group, you’ll know exactly what’s in your food and you’ll be a great guest. Elena’s pantry has some really amazing gluten-free desserts to bring to the table. I like to bring gluten-free pie and rolls to Thanksgiving–my whole family loves them!
  • Restrain! If you are certain that eggnog doesn’t have dairy and those gooey cookies are gluten-free, then by all means, dig in! But if not, it’s safest to assume that there is something in them that may wreak havoc in your body. Be good and follow your usual dietary restrictions, your body will reward you.

dec_09_stress_partyKarla Mercado on planning simple get togethers with friends: If you’re in college or returning to your childhood home, then you know that this is the season for homecomings and everyone’s stacking up on reunion party invites. Perhaps you’re about to throw a party yourself? To avoid party stress, I suggest you keep it simple.

  • Forget the plates. Serve food guests can carry around with your bare hands or a cloth napkin. They don’t have to be frou frou! Think of great homemade sandwiches, homemade pizza, or simple sliced veggies and fruit. Bonus: you won’t have to do dishes.
  • One pot drinks. Avoid the unwanted calories and toxins of alcohol by serving hot apple cider infused with aromatic spices. You can set up a pot on the stove with a ladle and have your guests help themselves.
  • Prepare, then sit down. Don’t run around making sure everyone has what they need. Suddenly you’ll realize people are leaving, your party is over, and you didn’t have the chance to really connect with your friends. Find a friend you hold dear and sit down together. Talk! That friend looking for more pizza, he’ll find it.

dec_09_stress_familyDr. Igor Schwartzman on forgetting about consumerism-oriented traditions: I often get an unsettling feeling during this time of the year because my patients and the people around me all seem so overwhelmed. The holidays tend to bring out anxiety over what we think we should be doing (spending money, wrapping gifts, cooking particular dishes). These uncontrolled bursts of energy all lead to one place: stress. I think the true essence of the holidays is family and celebration, rather than consumerism. My family doesn’t share gifts. Instead we have small traditions and rituals that we create each year to celebrate our time together. The focus is all about getting back to the basics. Try this:

  • Create a festive, nourishing meal together. Have fun! Give every single person a simple task.
  • Walk through the woods or park and collect the gifts of nature to use as decorations around the house.
  • Engage in family arts and crafts or a parlor game that results in a group story or poem.
  • Retreat away from home, a house on the beach, or a winter-cabin.
  • Plant a tree. Instead of cutting down a tree, plant a sapling in your garden. Over the years, you can watch it grow together. Simple, but rewarding.

dec_09_stress_cultivationDr. Gibran Ramos on looking inwards: Cultivation is a Chinese cultural practice that I use to get through the cold darkness and stress of the holiday season. As the days start shortening, the weather gets cold and the mad holiday buying sprees start. From Chinese culture, we can discover the true gifts of the holiday season. For them, this is the season of introspection and reflection. Nature is an analogy and teacher that we can reference as a “how-to” manual for our lives and our health. When you go inwards, you discover the brilliance of your internal spirit, or shen. If you really take the time to reflect, when you get together with your family or friends, you’ll shine from the inside out! If you have a hard time sitting quietly by yourself, try writing a journal entry, or a long email, about what you’ve enjoyed, learned, cared for, or accomplished.

  • Slow down.
  • Look inwards.
  • Meditate on the past year.

dec_09_stress_travelDr. Carrie Jones on stress-free travel: Flying to Grandma’s house or braving the highway? Either way, I find that travel can be incredibly stressful if I’m not prepared. Here are my tips for a successful journey:

  • Know before you go. With all the changes in the airline industry, make sure you’re aware of bag restrictions and costs associated with checking bags. Many airlines offer online check-in which can save you time at the airport.  In the car, print directions ahead of time or set your GPS unit ahead of time. Fill the gas tank, check your oil and tire pressure a few days before.
  • Pack snacks. Airport food is overpriced and unhealthy. Most airlines don’t have a food option anymore which means long flights and short layovers can lead to hungry people. Snacks in the car means less stop time and healthier choices.
  • Bring entertainment. Make sure you have books, magazines, music, games, and whatever else you need to ensure you and your family can pass the time without boredom or temper tantrums.
  • Know your arrangements. Maybe you slept on the floor or on the couch last time and you were short a pillow or wished for more blankets. Plan accordingly! Pack extra comforts so you are able to sleep. Consider bringing ear plugs and an eye mask if you’re a light sleeper.

Have your own tips? Share below!

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  1. It’s really wonderful to see you all gang up on a topic together. I’d love to see more articles like this in the future!

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