It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holiday season is a notorious stress-stravaganza for many of us. The dizzying array of demands—from gifting expectations to travel logistics to managing family while also staying on top of work—can feel like a vice grip on an otherwise festive season. Left unchecked, stress can snowball well beyond a jingle bummer and lead to serious conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases.
That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to managing stress at home, at work, during travel, and all the moments in between. Because maintaining your wellness during the holidays is more than just ideal—it is critical.
Our Non-Negotiables for Holiday Season Stress Management
Get at least one massage this month
It may feel hard to find that time for yourself, but the scientifically proven mental health benefits of massage make it a no-brainer during stressful times. Having your therapist employ acupressure techniques that focus on the hands and feet are also helpful for stress management.
Practice cortisol control
Let the sun shine in
There may be fewer daylight hours to take advantage of, but that very factor makes sun exposure all the more important during stressful times. Like nature’s Xanax, direct sunlight is scientifically proven to help reduce stress, regulate circadian rhythms, and more.
Be kind to your gut
There are 101 things that can cause digestive woes during the holidays, and stress can be both its cause and its result. Stop the vicious cycle of with a few guidelines:
- Make anything you eat (or drink) worth it. There’s no shortage of opportunities to indulge this time of year, so make sure if you do, it’s because you truly, madly love it, and not just because it’s in front of you.
- The later you eat, the smaller the meal. This minimizes digestive drama that interferes with sleep—especially helpful since insufficient rest can further exacerbate digestion and stress.
- Keep peppermint tea, fresh ginger, and aloe vera juice on hand, for natural digestive aids when gastric woes arise.
- Our favorite digestive aid? A massage, of course! No kidding!
Staying Sane During Travel
Traveling during the holidays tends to come with more baggage than other times of year. Here are some tips for mitigating the extra stressors of peak-season travel:
- If ever there was a time to purchase travel insurance, it’s during holiday travel. Even if nothing goes wrong, the added peace of mind will spare you some back-of-your-mind anxiety leading up to your trip.
- Get a full 7–9 hours of sleep the night before traveling, and avoid drugs, alcohol, and hard-to-digest foods (think spicy and fatty). This will maximize emotional and physiological stability when it’s go time.
- If your schedule allows, exercising before traveling generates mood-stabilizing endorphins, which also promote daytime energy and healthy rest at night.
- Plan to get to airports way earlier than you think is necessary. To make it less of a bummer, arm yourself with something wonderful to pass the extra time—that page-turner everyone’s reading, binge-worthy podcast, or even a few movies you can watch on a phone or iPad (don’t forget your charger).
- Checking a bag? Keep a few clothes and important items in your carry-on, in case your luggage gets lost.
- After you arrive at your destination, find a few moments to do these post-travel stretches. In addition to un-scrunching your body, stretching will give you a boost of energy and reboot your circulation.
Managing Stress at Work
Just because “it’s the hap-happiest season of all” doesn’t mean you can check out at work. For those in fields like retail, marketing, and accounting, it can be the bus-busiest season of all. Here are some tips for staying on your game on the job:
- Working from home? There’s never a better time than now to make sure your workspace serves your body ergonomically, to reduce physical stress that can exacerbate the heck out of your emotional stress.
- Learn the perfect workspace setup for ergonomic health from chiropractor Dr. Tom Oddo and keep pain at bay with these daily posture-correcting movements.
- Harness the power of mindfulness to sharpen your focus and improve creativity when you start to feel overwhelmed by work. Too busy for a guided exercise? There’s more than one way to have a mindful workday.
- Try a tool like Brain.fm that uses scientifically developed, neural-phase-locking music to keep your head in the game when focused work is non-negotiable.
- Stress can result in brain fog that puts a serious damper on your productivity. Clear the fog with these 5 techniques.
- Furiously responding to emails and Slacks all day? Keep your hands and wrists limber and pain-free with these stretches.
Staying on Top of Your Exercise Routines
It can feel as though literally everything conspires to mess up your fitness routine during the holidays. Work is more hectic, social plans pile up, and the eating…oh, the eating! But we’re not telling you not to enjoy the holidays’ bounty.
So first and foremost, don’t beat yourself up over it. The season will pass, and with it the cookies, mega-meals, and calendar gridlock. Don’t let your efforts to fix this unavoidable problem become yet another stressor. Just do your best. Here are a few ways:
- Just taking a walk can go a very long way toward your mental and physical wellness. Try to get one in every day—at least 20 or 30 minutes.
- Incorporate strength training to get more—and longer-lasting—benefits from every workout. Instead of trying to spin/run/stairclimb away your caloric sins, you’ll be upping your ambient calorie burn all day long (and making a wise investment in your musculoskeletal future).
- Or go easier on your joints with an active yoga routine, and reap the benefits of both cardio and yoga. Talk about an efficient use of time!
- And remember to incorporate the best foods for muscle recovery to mitigate the less wholesome stuff you may be consuming.
Other Ways to Stay Peaceful and Mindful During the Holidays
The holidays are the perfect time to take up a meditation practice. Not sure where to start? Find the perfect meditation technique for you.
Let stress roll off your back with a restorative yoga session for back pain.
And, of course, there’s no better way to ease stress, improve mood and focus, support your immunity, and melt away pain than a massage. We’ll even save you time and travel by coming directly to you.