From simple breathing techniques to a nice walk, you can take small steps to find holiday stress relief

Stress during the holidays is very common, which is why finding holiday stress relief can be crucial to actually enjoying the holiday season. Even the fun events, such as parties, family gatherings, holiday cards or shopping, can give us a burnt out or overwhelmed feeling.

Besides affecting our mood, stress also has physiological effects including heart health, sleep, energy, hormones (estrogen/testosterone) and even our digestion.

The good news is, there are five very easy steps to combat holiday stress relief,

1. Deep Breathing

Deep Breathing is easy, free, and immediately stops the stress response in our bodies from progressing. This is the first line of defense in holiday stress relief. Doing this at least once in the morning, before bed and before each meal, or in times when your mind starts to race and your heart speeds up can help keep your stress hormones at bay. This is another great step to take any time of the year when someone does something or says something that irritates you.

For example, when rushed holiday shoppers cut you off while driving, instead of yelling at them or making hand gestures, consider just taking a nice deep breath, and like the Disney song encourages, “let it go.”

Calming deep breath exercise: In for 4 seconds, hold for 7, out for 8.While you are holding, really focus on releasing the tension in your shoulders and back or wherever you feel tightness.

2. Epsom Salt Baths

Epsom salt is extremely inexpensive (sold at drugstores) and contains magnesium – which is known to calm the muscles and the mind. This is another great way to get some holiday stress relief. Pour some epsom salt in a warm tub and soak for 30 minutes and notice how much better you sleep and how much more calm you feel. Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after (and possibly even during) to stay hydrated.

3. Exercise and Get Outdoors

moving is one of the most important actions you can take for good health everyday, whether it’s to find holiday stress relief or simply to maintain your weight and strength. Combining exercise with social activities, such as taking a walk with a friend, also provides a much needed break from the eating or drinking often associated with holiday get-to-gethers.

Taking a hike or a walk with your phone on airplane mode is a great way to balance your neurotransmitters and get vitamin D. If you live somewhere that the weather doesn’t quite permit outdoor activity right now, doing a yoga flow, weight training or even dancing to your favorite songs at home is a great way to release stress from the body.

4. Self Massage

If you are feeling extremely stressed and tense, getting a professional massage may help to release tension and bring you into balance. However, you can still get these benefits without going to a spa by doing self-massage.

A great way to do a self-massage, is to use a tennis or lacrosse ball and/or foam roller. To use a tennis/lacrosse ball, put it between the floor or wall and your back, between the floor and your feet, or roll it over anywhere that feels extra tense like your neck and shoulders. A quick search on YouTube about foam rolling and using a tennis/lacrosse ball may help you learn the simple techniques as well.

5. Morning Routines

The first thing you put into your mind can really help set the tone for your day. Setting aside at least 10 minutes for a healthy morning routine can help you start your day in a calm and focused state instead of anxious and stressed. You may find also find benefits to avoiding news and social media as soon as you wake up.

Morning Routine Ideas: 

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Reading a book
  • Taking a walk
  • Dancing
  • Exercising
  • Journaling
  • Doing some kind of art
  • Listening to an inspirational podcast
  • Snuggle time with your loved one or fur baby

If you find that your holiday stress is related to noticing that a loved one is facing memory issues or seems to lack proper hyenine or nutrition, seek out help. Real this blog on how in home care can help with nutrition or this one about how having a caregiver can reduce loneliness. Having trouble talking to your parents about care, we’ve got great ideas here.

This is an original post from 2020, updated 12/2023.

Tips provided by Nicole Brors, Certified Nutritionist and Herbalist at Dance to the Beet