De-Stressing for the Holidays

by Jason Kessler

Tips for de-stressing for the holidays so you can have a happier, healthier and saner holiday season.

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The holidays. Did you feel that? That was your body reacting to one of the most stressful phrases known to mankind. Just hearing it makes our pulses quicken, our palms sweaty, our minds race.

The holidays come with an extra dose of adult responsibility, be it from trying to find the perfect gift for your loved ones to doing your best to hit every single holiday party that you get invited to. For a time of the year that’s supposed to be about celebration and family and happiness, it sure does come with a lot of stress. Fear not, though, because after consulting with experts, the Green Guy has you covered for a stress-free holiday season this year.

Liz Burns (aka Coach Lizzie B) is a former Olympian and fitness coach who somehow combines remarkable sweetness of the non-caloric variety with extreme competence to get real results. When I asked her about eliminating stress over the holidays, she offered a two-pronged approach that–surprise!–focuses on health. On the eating front, Liz suggests that you fill up before a big party with healthy food when you know you’re going to gorge on sugary-salty-fatty goodness later. That way, you won’t be kicking yourself for eating the whole cheese log. “Before the party, grab a handful of nuts and a few bites of grass-fed beef jerky to take the edge off and avoid all those empty calories,” says Burns. “The key is having healthy snacks around so you don’t get stuck in ‘hangry’ mode!” Nobody likes being stuck in “hangry” mode—holidays or not.

She also recommends being flexible with your regular workout routine. Don’t have time to workout for an hour? Shorten it to 20 minutes. Don’t have time to workout at all? No problem. Skip it. As Burns says: “Maybe you skip a workout to spend extra time with family and friends. It’s going to be okay! Just get back in the gym the next day and don’t beat yourself up about it.” The secret is knowing that the stress is all in your own brain.

You are the one controlling how stressed you feel, which brings me to the next component of a stress-free holiday: Put your mind at ease.

It’s easier said than done, but if you can somehow find inner calm in the face of Black Friday, fruit cakes and unforgiving return policies, you’ll find that the holidays can be as stress-free as you want them to be. When you start to feel the symptoms of stress—your mind is hyperactive, time seems to be slipping away, you’re quick to anger and rage—just relax. That’s the advice of Dr. Elliott S. Dacher, M.D., author of Aware, Awake, Alive (Paragon House) and an expert on meditation practices.

“During challenging periods when there’s too much to do, consider taking short breaks,” says Dr. Dacher. “Stop and breathe slowly into the lower belly, imagining your energy moving from your head into your lower abdomen, ‘pulling’ your energy into your lower abdomen.” Just a simple break to step away from the craziness of trying to find the last Tickle Me Elmo may be enough to get you back to human form.

If I had to boil all of this de-stressing advice down to one word, it would be “breathe.” If you can be self-aware enough to take a deep breath every once in a while, you can escape the imaginary crush of too much to do in too little time. You’ll see and think more clearly, and you’ll be able to put that candy cane down in favor of a better choice (candy carrots, perhaps?).

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