Parties, social events, festive celebrations, and gatherings with family and friends are part of the holiday season.  Entertaining, sending cards, and wrapping gifts are part of the holiday season.  Shopping, cooking, cleaning, and traveling are part of the holiday season.  Feeling over whelmed with additional “To Do” items, strained budgets, and dealing with family conflicts are part of the holiday season? In other words, have your holidays become a stressor?  With a few tweaks, the holidays don’t have to be a stressful season.  Here are a few tips to reduce holiday stress.
Creating the “perfect” holiday can be overwhelming; and attempting to please everyone and do everything can leave you feeling tired and resentful.  This year simplify.  Choose and prioritized the events and traditions that you value most, and cross the rest off the To Do list.  Be open to creating new, less demanding, traditions.  For example, have a potluck or a cookie party instead of a sit down dinner.
Healthy habits.
How often has a cup of coffee made up for the lack of a full nights sleep? Or an exercise session is skipped to fit in another “to do” item?  Many times the very things that help us reduce stress are the first things off the “To Do” list.
Oh Silent Night.

Stress and sleep (or lack of sleep) have a complimentary and complex relationship.  Stress not only interferes with the quality of sleep (all those thoughts and worries that keep us up at night), but lack of sleep also increases the release of hormones involved in the stress response.  So, you’re not sleeping because you’re stressed, and you’re stressed because you’re not sleeping.  If a good night’s sleep has eluded you, napping has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, increase reaction time, and even enhance learning.  Studies have shown that a 20-minute nap provides more wide spread benefits than 20 minutes extra sleep in the morning.  If possible, rather than hitting the snooze button once, twice, or (“oh no you didn’t”) three times, take some time out to rest or for an afternoon power nap.
Physical activity increases endorphins.  Have you heard of the runner’s high; that feeling of euphoria that happens during physical activity?  That is the effect of endorphins.  Endorphins reduce stress and relieve pain.  They are also believed to enhance our immune system and even postpone the effects of aging.  A brisk walk on a cold winters day is fantastic for clearing the mind and reducing stress.  Twenty minutes of yoga or calisthenics have a wide range of physical and emotional benefits.  However, exercise is not the only medium to a healthy dose of endorphins; try a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing, or doubling over with laughter.  Yes, laughter produces endorphins.  Have you ever felt stressed after a really good belly laugh? 
This season, let’s add more laughs and less “To Do” items to our holiday celebration.  I wish you a stress free holiday and a happy New Year!