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  • The 4 Holiday Stress Hacks You Need to Keep Your Sanity

    Beat holiday stressIt’s that time of year again isn’t it? Decorations, trees, decorations on trees, shopping, food, family, more food, parties, crowds at every store, and more  parties. Gaaahhh!! If I didn’t have these tricks to help me cope, I’d have cracked long ago! Today, I share the 4 things that have somehow managed to keep me sane!

    1. Deep Breaths – Deep breathing is a great way to calm yourself down when everything seems to be going wrong. The stress response causes you to take quick, shallow breaths which, allowed to continue for too long, can actually increase stress and anxiety. Consciously taking slow, deep breaths short circuits the stress response and triggers a relaxation response in your body.
    2. Smile – Most people smile when they’re happy, but social scientists have shown that the reverse is also true. When you’re forced to smile, perhaps because you’re holding a pen in your teeth, it makes you happy, or at least happier than you were. There’s a great TED Talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy in which she explains how our body language affects us. At 7:29 she mentions the smiling thing. I mentioned this to a client once, and he said, “oh yeah, my therapist told me to smile when I was feeling stressed and it actually does help. When I remember to do it.”
    3. Get Down – On the floor, that is. I’m referring to a yoga pose that anyone can do, called legs up the wall. There are many variations of it, so it’s suitable for all ability levels. The basic gist of the pose is that you lie on the floor with your buttocks very close to the wall and extend your legs up the wall. Elevating the legs induces a relaxation response in the body. While it’s not uncommon for people to do this pose for 10, 20, or even 30 minutes at a time, you don’t need to do it that long to gain some benefit. I know people who do this for only 2-5 minutes at a time and still experience a calming response. There’s a great video of all the variations of legs up the wall (from most basic to advanced) on the Gaiam website, here, and a great article about using it for stress relief in Yoga Journal, here.
    4. Laughter – I put this one last because sometimes you’ll need to use one of the other hacks to calm down enough to see the humor in your situation, but sometimes the humor will be too apparent to miss. If you’re struggling to find the humor try shifting your perspective: would a sibling or friend be laughing at either you, the situation, or your reaction to the situation? Would you laugh if it happened to a sibling or friend (I know you’re upset now, but be honest)? Will this make a great story someday? Can you make it into a funny story today and therefore be the one who deals with it honestly, and with humor and grace? Is this situation so hopeless or absurd that there is no fix and therefore absolutely no other response is appropriate.

    “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” ~ Robert Frost 

    And one more thought:

    “Laugh whenever you can. Keeps you from killing yourself when things are bad. That and vodka.” ~ Jim Butcher, Changes