How to Ditch Stress During the Holiday Season
Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Eat. Sleep. Participate in some type of holiday festivity. Repeat. Don’t panic, but it’s late-November so.... the holidays are HERE! 

The holidays are a wonderful time of year to spend quality time with friends, family and loved ones. However, it’s also common to feel stressed and overwhelmed about the hustle and bustle that this season brings.  

In fact, 44 percent of people reported feeling stressed during the holidays according to a 2015 Healthline survey. There are plenty of reasons why stress may arise during this time — the seasonal demands of planning, entertaining, preparing meals, shopping and even cleaning — the list goes on and on! On top of the usual holiday stressors, we're also faced with the continued uncertainty of COVID-19 and practicing safe gatherings this year

Luckily, there are plenty of healthy techniques that you can implement into your daily routine to help you address unhealthy stressful feelings. Below are five simple tips that are sure to ease your mind and keep you feeling calm. 

  1. Focus on Your Breathing: Focusing on your breathing is an effective way to immediately relax and reduce stress, as found in a study conducted at the University of Arizona, and it’s easy! Next time you begin to feel overwhelmed by holiday stressors, try to PAUSE and use this simple breathing technique. The University of Michigan recommends this technique for beginners. 

  • Belly Breathing: While sitting or lying in a comfortable position, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, just below your ribcage. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to gently expand with air. Breathe out with pursed lips, feeling the hand on your belly slowly descend, gently using it to push the air out. Repeat 3-10 times.  

  1. Exercise: Engaging in any type of physical activity increases your overall health, and is also an effective way to reduce stress levels. While you exercise, your body releases endorphins - often referred to as “feel-good” chemicals - which are chemicals that are produced naturally by the body to relieve symptoms of pain or stress by stimulating feelings of pleasure and well-being. The key to implementing exercise as a coping mechanism to battle stress is to find an activity that you enjoy. If you don’t prefer to exercise at a gym, try these outdoor activities instead: 

  • Bike along the beach in Manhattan Beach

  • Go for a brisk walk or jog near the beach - perhaps along The Strand 

  • Hike along a scenic trail, like the George F. Canyon Nature Center 

  • Swim laps or do water aerobics at your preferred local spot 

  • Walk around your neighborhood to look at holiday lights

  • Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) also provides a wide range of at-home exercise videos on its Center for Health & Fitness YouTube playlist that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Try one today! Learn more here.

  1. Create Something: For many people, distracting their mind by bringing focus to their hands is a great way to relieve stress. Try to engage in a hands-on activity that you enjoy, whether it be drawing, coloring, knitting, or writing. In fact, one study found that coloring complex geometric patterns lead to lower levels of anxiety, making coloring a great stress-reliever. 

  • BCHD has a couple printable holiday cards that you can color and display in your home, or even send to someone special: See here.
  1. Meditate: According to the American Psychological Association, mindful meditation can be described as a way to train your attention to achieve a mental state of calm concentration and positive emotions. Meditation and mindfulness are great tools that aid in combating feelings of stress by re-directing you to focus on the present, rather than worry about the past or future. In fact, researchers conducted a meta-analysis including nearly 1,300 adults and found that meditation was especially effective for reducing stress and anxiety. 

  • BCHD offers dozens of mindfulness exercise videos and also hosts a virtual, 30-minute guided mediation on the first Wednesday of each month. To access these resources, see here.
  1. Eat Right: Focusing on nutrition comes in handy when trying to reduce the negative effects of stress. In fact, a balanced diet can support a healthy immune system and provides the extra energy needed to cope with stressful events according to Harvard’s School of Public Health. Developing a habit of eating healthy can improve your overall diet, and can also eventually lead to reduced stress levels.  

  • BCHD’s Blue Zones Project® Cooking Show offers delicious and nutritious recipes, videos and more that can help you make healthier choices in the kitchen and beyond. See here for recipes and more information. Be sure to check out the Zones Project Cooking Show recipes for November and December as they are sure to revolutionize your holiday menu this year.  

Experimenting is the best way to find a healthy stress management technique that works best for you. Executing at least one of these techniques, or combining a couple of your favorites, is a surefire way to ease your mind during this busy holiday season. After all, we’re meant to enjoy the holidays, not worry over them!