Guide to de-stressing before the holidays

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If ’tis the season for you is more like ’tis the stressing, you’re not alone. According to Prevention Magazine, up to 90 percent of the population feels some degree of stress during the holidays. And here’s why: On average, we spend approximately $1,000 — which means many people might be working longer hours to afford gifts, or people who work in retail might be facing longer hours and bigger crowds — and drive 275 miles. Plus, 37 percent of the population worries about gaining weight. It’s hard to feel festive when you’re overwhelmed with worry.

Let’s be merry with a few de-stressing steps:

STEP 1: Gratitude
Despite the hype, the holiday season is not actually about spending money on gifts, eating rich food or having the most festive decor. The holidays should remind us to be grateful for all the wondrous things in our lives. Upon waking every morning, try starting your day by listing five different reasons you are grateful — and don’t feel like it has to be the biggies like “your spouse.” You can be thankful for the fluffy comforter you snuggle under every night.

STEP 2: Be realistic, not ritualistic
Last holiday season, we bought a house, then listed and showed our old house (I know, not the best sequence), then renovated the new house while selling our old house. It was a crazy time. And though I usually send out a Christmas card — which can be expensive because the list keeps growing and the cards keep getting more elaborate — I finally called a time-out on any type of mailer. It wasn’t because I was “bah-humbug-ing” or feeling overwhelmed, per se. It was because I felt like we needed to be more realistic than ritualistic. According to the Mayo Clinic, “As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.”

DE STRESSING2STEP 3: Make it heartfelt
Homemade is from the heart, not your bank account. Try making or baking some of your gifts. Also, giving to local charities is the gift that keeps on giving.

STEP 4: Go 80-20, 70-30 or, at the very least, 60-40
I try to always be 80-20—meaning 80 percent of the time I eat and drink clean, whole foods. The other 20 percent of the time (or roughly one to two days a week), I let myself indulge. Find the ratio that is right for you, but don’t forget all your health goals during this celebratory time.

STEP 5: Relax
With family, professional and personal demands, it’s hard to relax, no matter the season. And yet the Mayo Clinic reports that relaxation techniques like focused breathing can help “lower blood pressure, reduce activity of stress hormones, reduce muscle tension and chronic pain, improve concentration and mood, reduce fatigue, anger and frustration, and boost confidence to handle problems.” Some of my favorite go-to stress relievers include walking on the beach and meditation.

Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).