How to Deal with Stress Around the Holidays

Power through the holidays stress-free with these tips to beat anxiety


The holidays are fun... but they can also be stressful and exhausting. These moves will make you feel merrier and keep anxiety at bay.

Go for a Morning Jog

To boost your mood-and maintain holiday cheer-get in some early outdoor exercise: Morning light has been shown to counteract mild cases of seasonal affective disorder, according to researchers from Oregon Health Sciences University. (Morning sunlight is also connected to lower BMIs!) And people who walked or jogged outside reported a better sense of well-being than when they used a treadmill, reports a recent study in Environmental Science and Technology. Other research suggests that exercise also elevates your body's fight-or-flight threshold-making you better equipped to face any challenges (botched online orders or meddlesome in-laws, for instance) the holidays may present.

Protect Your Personal Time

You love all the parties and get-togethers this time of year brings. But shield yourself from burnout with the occasional RSVP no. To make it guilt-free, sandwich one no between two yeses, suggests Amit Sood, M.D., author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. That is, couch a negative within two affirmatives, like, "I'd love to see you, but this month won't work. Let's make a definite plan for January." Beginning and ending on a positive note softens the blow of your rebuff, so you both walk away satisfied.

Make Someone Happy

Doing good deeds can spark an internal glow of happiness. To get even more of a mood boost, set very specific goals, suggests research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. When you pursue a concrete target-literally, goals as small as making someone smile or collecting canned goods for a food drive-the actual results are more apt to closely align with the outcome you envisioned, which ups your sense of accomplishment. (Less tangible goals, like a vow to donate more to charity, can be achieved in many different ways, and the payoff is ultimately less satisfying.)

Freshen Up the Hot Chocolate

Peppermint, so ubiquitous this time of year, has been shown to improve your mood. In a Wheeling Jesuit University study, commuters who sniffed the aroma during rush hour experienced a reduction in anxiety and frustration. So swing by Starbucks for a peppermint latte on your way to the mall, or tuck a candy cane in each envelope with your holiday cards. Hey, maybe everyone will chill out!

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