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10 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress

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Updated December 17, 2013

The holidays tend to bring not just parties and presents and shopping, but an extra dose of stress along with it. It may seem impossible to catch a breath, much less relax this time of year, but giving yourself time to deal with stress is essential if you want to get any sort of enjoyment out of the holidays. It's also essential for maintaining your health, your weight and your sanity. These quick tips offer some ideas for avoiding too much stress this holiday season.

1. Don't Skip Your Workouts

It's tempting to take the gym off your to-do list, but getting in some exercise is one of the best ways to burn off tension, get time to yourself, and boost your energy and mood. Keep things simple - Workout at home or plan short workouts at the gym that don't require much time or equipment. Give yourself some extra time to lounge in tub or steam room.

Timesaver Workout Ideas

2. Lift Weights

We often skip strength training in favor of cardio when time gets tight, but you need to keep lifting weights. Not only will it keep your metabolism going, it will help you maintain your muscle mass and your strength. Strength is crucial during the holidays as you deal with everything from putting up trees and lights to lugging shopping bags all over creation.

Keep your workouts short and focus on hitting all your muscle groups a couple of times a week. All you need is about 10 minutes for a complete workout:

3. Take a Run or Walk

You may think you get enough cardio running around the mall, but setting aside specific time to take a walk or run can increase feel-good hormones, reduce stress and boost your mood in just five minutes. Second, it helps you maintain your weight, or at least minimize weight gain from eating too many treats. Bonus: When you need a break from the family, it's a great excuse to get out for a bit and get a moment to yourself.

4. Relax with Mind/Body Exercise

If gym workouts or more strenuous routines are out of reach, try setting aside 5 to 10 minutes in the morning or at night for a gentle mind/body workout, such as stretching or yoga. Yoga is great for flexibility, but it's also a great way to wake up on a cold morning or unwind after a long day.

Yoga and Flexibility Workouts

5. Sleep

You may be busier than ever, but getting enough sleep is essential for keeping your stress hormones in check and your weight from creeping up. In fact, lack of sleep can affect hormones so much that your body may actually store extra fat when things get stressful. Do everything you can to create a bedtime ritual that helps you unwind and relax -- try a light stretching workout, take a hot bath, read something soothing or have some herbal tea. And don't be afraid to take a power nap during the day if you're not getting enough sleep at night.

6. Avoid Eating Out too Frequently

Do you find you eat out more this time of year? I certainly do simply because, at the end of an exhausting day, it's so much easier to collapse in a restaurant booth and let someone else do all the work. But resisting the temptation to eat out all the time can help save your waistline as well as keep stress at bay. Eating out may be the easy way out, but all those extra calories can add up, leaving you feeling guilty and stressed.

7. Ease Up on Yourself

In the first few steps, I mentioned doing what you can to keep some kind of exercise program going. However, if trying to do everything is making you crazy, don't be afraid to scale back on your workouts. Finding a couple of hours to get to the gym, change your clothes, workout, take a shower, change clothes again and get where you're going can be tough, even on the best day. Try:

Even a few days off from exercise won't hurt your fitness level, as long as you get back on track.

8. Drink More Water

This time of year, many of us end up drinking more alcohol than usual, which can cause weight gain. Add that to cold, dry weather and you've got a recipe for dehydration. Being dehydrated zaps your energy and makes it difficult to concentrate. Being thirsty can even make you feel hungry, causing you to eat more than you normally do. Try using a Water Calculator to find out how much water you need each day and carry a water bottle with you all day long. You can also drink herbal teas and eat fruits and vegetables, which will also contribute to your hydration. And, if you drink alcohol, try having a glass of water between each drink to keep you sober and hydrated (and help avoid a hangover).

9. Learn How to Say No

Saying "no" can be difficult and the hardest person to say no to may be yourself. We all think we should be able to do it all - Buy the perfect gifts, wrap them with perfect care, decorate the house, plan the party, go to all the other parties scheduled, take care of regular daily chores and do it all with a great big smile on our faces.

In 'Leave it Beaver' land, that may be possible. In real life, there's no better gift to give yourself than saying "no," to things you simple can't (or don't want) to do.

Make yourself a priority and then prioritize the rest of your tasks around that central theme. Decide which functions you must attend and which tasks you can delegate to a loved one. Don't be afraid to decline activities that only add more stress. Remind yourself that the holidays are about enjoying yourself and your family, not being a super hero.

10. Reward Yourself

When the holidays are over, reward yourself for a job well done. There's always a little let down when the holidays end, so pick yourself up with a little self-care to get your mind and body relaxed and ready for the new year.
  • Schedule a massage or other spa treatment
  • Plan a night out with people you enjoy hanging out with
  • Plan a night alone, reading a book, listening to music or building birdhouses
  • Do an extra long workout. Give yourself plenty of time for your cardio, strength and stretching and plan a hot bath afterwards.
  • Schedule an hour to do something you love
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