If you feel like you’re going to have a panic attack just thinking about everything you have to do in the next few days, take a deep breath. Experts agree, the holidays can be stress-free with a different outlook and a few simple changes. Here, get their best tips to feel calm and relaxed— no meditation required.
1. Have a plan.
Set aside 45 minutes to write down exactly what you have to do, how much time it will realistically take to accomplish, and when you’ll do it. Then schedule the appointment with yourself on your calendar to ensure it’ll get done, said Paula Rizzo, New York City-based author of “Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed.”
2. Take a vitamin D supplement.
It’s easy to miss out on much-needed sunshine and vitamin D especially because the sun sets early and the shortest day of the year is December 21. Plus, since studies show that low vitamin D levels are linked to anxiety, depression and suicide, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough, said Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
You can eat vitamin-D rich foods like salmon, fortified milk and egg yolks, but people who live in latitudes above 32-degrees north take a supplement of 5,000 IUs a day during the winter, Cannell said.
Think you have no time? Just an hour of opening your heart to help others can help you feel more open to life’s possibilities as well.
“When you give, you get so much back,” said Lisa Haisha, a motivational speaker in Los Angeles, Calif. and author of “Whispers From Children’s Hearts.”
Writing a check is worthy but your time will pay off tenfold.
“When you put yourself in a situation where you’re part of a community doing something good, that’s where the magic really is,” she said.
4. Sip some tea.
Tea is high in L-Theanine, an amino acid that relaxes the brain and brings calm and focus, said Zhena Muzyka, Ojai, Calif.-based founder of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, author of “Life By the Cup,” and publisher of Enliven Books. Two to try: Oolong, which helps to balance blood sugar and reduce stress hormones and Yin Zen silver needle.
“Even though it has a tiny bit of caffeine, you’ll feel very relaxed and calm after you drink it,” she said.
5. Re-do your to-do list.
If you group similar tasks together and do them all at the same time, you’ll be hyper-focused and more productive.
“Writing things down is helpful but really being able to pull those things out into actionable items is the piece that will keep you sane,” Rizzo, who is also a senior producer at FoxNews.com, said.
6. Accept change.
If you’re recently separated or divorced, this year may not be the same, especially if you’re splitting up or alternating holidays with your kids. Instead of mourning traditions, make new ones that may turn out to be even better.
“It’s about embracing that different doesn’t have to be bad,” said Emma Johnson, a business journalist in New York City, author of WealthySingleMommy.com and host of the Like a Mother with Emma Johnson podcast.
According to a survey by ZICO Premium Coconut Water, more than half of Americans would pay $2,725 on average in return for an extra hour per day.
“If the time to do the things on your to-do list don’t serve you or you’re not the best person to do it, give it to someone else,” Rizzo said.
Ask a family member to help with some shopping, hire a virtual assistant to send out your holiday cards, or download an app that provides a service like delivering groceries or hanging Christmas lights, for example.
8. Focus on gratitude.
When you take time to appreciate what you’re grateful for, what the holidays really mean, and keep yourself grounded in the present moment, you’ll feel less stressed, Haisha said. So instead of worrying about what you’re going to wear to a friend’s holiday party, appreciate that you have people in your life who love and care about you.
9. Cut up your credit card.
Overspending or buying more than you can afford will inevitably create anxiety. What’s more, studies show people are happier with experiences that create memories over material things.
Rather of buying your spouse an expensive gift, plan a trip instead. Having a holiday party? Log out of Pinterest and make it a potluck or ask guests to bring wine or dessert.
“Make a conscious decision not to compete,” Johnson said.
10. Let it go
Holding grudges or stewing over past hurts will only perpetuate a negative cycle.
“If you come in with a smile and an open heart, you’ll see a shift in what transpires at that event,” Haisha said.
So instead of fretting that your mother-in-law will make a comment about a few extra pounds you gained, simply accept that it will happen, laugh it off, and say, “thanks for noticing!”
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.