Christmas and New Year’s are days away – and if you’ve got in-laws coming, cookies to bake, more shopping to do and nothing to wear to the holiday office party, your holiday stress is probably over the top. But there’s good news: When you’re slammed and stressed, even a small change or shift can make big difference. These five tips can help you relieve holiday stress fast.
1. Scrunch up your face.
Pretend you just smelled a rotten fruitcake and scrunch up your facial muscles super tight. Then release back to normal. Repeat this several times. You may look funny doing it, but the exercise releases tension you’re holding above your neck. Watch this video from psychiatrist and brain imaging expert Daniel Amen, MD, to find out why stress-relieving exercises are crucial for your brain health.
2. Do some deep breathing.
Did someone just cut you off to steal the perfect parking spot at the holiday-packed mall? Breathe in, lick your lips, and then blow out slowly. The cool air helps you refocus and slow down. If your lips are already winter-chapped, just breathe in, hold for three seconds, and then breathe out slowly over several more seconds. Sit up tall while you’re doing it, too. Breathing exercises will actually get more oxygen to your brain cells, and give your stressed body a nice time-out. You may even want to park farther away so you can work off that extra cup of eggnog!
3. Bite on a wine cork.
If you catch yourself clenching your jaw when you’re stressed, hold a wine cork vertically between your teeth. (But don’t uncork a bottle and down half of it first!) Gently bite and release on the cork several times. It forces the muscles in your jaw, a major holder of tension, to relax.
4. Practice gratitude.
Take a five-minute break and write down three things you’re grateful for. They don’t have to be major. Did you snag the perfect gift for Aunt Pattie on sale, plus free shipping? Write that down. Focusing on gratitude generates positive emotions that can lower your heart rate and reduce stress. In fact, studies show daily gratitude exercises result in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and happiness.
5. Take a giggle break.
Try some laughter therapy: Watch that hilarious cat video or that baby-on-Santa’s-lap-meltdown online. Research shows that having a good laugh can trigger the release of endorphins, or feel-good chemicals. Sharecare Top 10 Social HealthMaker Paula Davis-Laack is an expert on stress and resilience, but she’s also a “recovering lawyer” who worked in a pressure-cooker office. She kept a book of lawyer jokes at her desk to lighten her mood fast.