Managing Your Stress Naturally During the Holiday Season

America puts aside the fourth Thursday of November each year so we can take time to give and find gratitude for life just as it is, loved ones, friendships, lessons learned, passions, peaks and pits, and all the others blessings you feel. One big day of thanks! I believe it's one of America's finest traditions.

The past couple years may have possibly transformed your traditional Thanksgiving plans, which can feel very unsettling and stressful. I completely understand.

In addition to changes in traditions or dynamics, it's also easy to get sucked into the endless "To-Do" lists. Trust me, I FEEL that endless pressure to do, to go, to finish, and it can really harm your health, especially your adrenal glands! I think it can also result in feeling too much stress and too little gratitude. I vow this holiday season to do less doing and to do more being.

Here are six ways to help you avoid some of the stress from holidays past, and create more space for truly savoring the reason for the season.

Schedule Regular ‘Breath-Stops’

One way to short-circuit the impact of holiday pressures and the whirlwind of activity that surrounds it is to be intentional about pressing ‘pause’ whenever you that your way of being is not embodying a spirit of peace, gratitude and ‘goodwill for all.’  Schedule time in your calendar to stop what you’re doing, take a few deep breaths and ‘recalibrate’ your emotional barometer. Repeat as often as necessary (it may be necessary!)

Don't "Should" On Yourself

Deciding upfront to let go of the idea that your holiday will ever be postcard-perfect will free you up to enjoy it for all that it is, and for all that it isn’t! Drop all the “shoulds” and unrealistic expectations that create stress, conflict, and resentment — “we should all get along,” “the table should be decorated Martha Stewart style,” “we should all have fun,” “everyone should come home for the holidays,” “we should all give thoughtful gifts…” and the list goes on… and on. It’s your attachment to how things should be that causes the bulk of your holiday stress and upsets. If you let go having to have things be a certain way, it allows you to enjoy things just as they are.

Create New Traditions

Be careful you aren’t dreading your traditions because of the amount of work that goes into them. Sometimes traditions outgrow themselves. “That’s how we’ve always done it” doesn’t mean it still works, given where you and your family are now. Just for this year try starting a new tradition and parting from an old one.

Think Outside the (Gift) Box

The best presents are never the most expensive but the most thoughtful. Give someone a voucher for a massage, breakfast in bed, or a babysitter to enjoy a night without kiddos. And of course, spend wisely – you aren’t being generous spending money on others if you can’t afford it.

Express More Gratitude

Like a sweet treat, expressing gratitude or just paying a compliment has a way of immediately lifting others’ spirits by bringing a smile to their face. Just think about who’s day you brighten by taking a moment to appreciate today. Pick up the phone, send them a card, flick them an email… it takes only a little time in your day to give, but it can make a profound difference to the person you give it to. As research has shown, acts of kindness toward others benefit the giver every bit as much as the person on the receiving end.

Lighten Up & Have Some Fun!

Having fun and being playful isn’t just for kids. Yet too often we grown-ups get so caught up in the seriousness of life we forget to have fun. Giving yourself permission to be playful, to act ‘childish,' and to engage in activities that make you smile is not only good for your health, but it can be totally cut through the relationship tensions that often build in the holiday season. Be courageous and get outside your comfort zone: hold silly contests like who has the most unfashionable holiday apparel. Offer to sing your favorite songs and carols for those around you (even if you have a terrible voice). Play your golden oldies CDs at breakfast… or in the office (everyone has to bring in their own). Keep your ideas simple and focused on involving everyone and having a fun time (even those people who drive you a bit nuts).

Whatever you do, or don’t do, in the days and weeks ahead, just remember for all that is wrong in the world, there is much more that is right. Now that’s something to be thankful for, and not just on the fourth Thursday in November.

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

Parts of this article by Margie Warrell for Forbes.com found here.

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