MISSION: SQUASH STRESS

13 scientifically-proven ways to beat holiday stress right now
—they're easier than you think!

It's no secret that the holiday season is a stressful one. There's the shopping, the cooking, the family member who seems intent on working your last nerve. It's enough to drive you to throwing the holiday turkey out the window and that annoying family member out with it.

Some good news? You can squash that stress-out before it gets to turkey- (and family member-) throwing proportions. Really!

We've rounded up the easiest (and in many cases, surprising!) stress relievers that work instantly:

Holiday stress-buster #1:
Hang around
Mom or Grandma
Family members not around? Then take a seat near any older woman. Turns out, being near women of a certain age lifts your spirits instantly, according to a study by Rutgers researcher Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D. Why? Believe it or not, it’s their smell. Her research shows that the odor of post-menopausal women triggers your brain to recall fond memories of Grandma, like how she cooked Thanksgiving dinner, crocheted sweaters she gave you for a holiday present, and the sweet holiday treats she snuck you behind your Mom’s back. And, all of these remembrances slam the breaks on stress and put you in a great mood!

Holiday stress-buster #2:
Make yourself a nice hot cup of tea

You’re probably already making it for your holiday guests, so take time to indulge in a cup yourself. Not just because it tastes great, but because it's a great source of caffeine, which researchers at MIT say boosts mood and energy. In fact, not only does the caffeine in tea work its mood-enhancing magic immediately, its effects last up to six hours!

[Check out our article "Find out the newest stress-busting beverage" to learn about the brand-new teas that have just hit the market!)

Holiday stress-buster #3:
Nibble a few gingerbread cookies

Comfort food relieves stress and puts you in a great mood, according to a study conducted at the University of California-San Francisco. How? Sugary and starchy treats puts the brakes on the adrenal hormones that cause stress reactions, making you feel merrier. But stop at just a nibble. Too much sugar can make you feel guilty, which will rev up your stress engine all over again!

Holiday stress-buster #4:
Open the window
When the holidays start stressing you out, your body temperature rises, according to scientists at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Letting the cool winter air in brings your body temperature back down to normal, researchers say, which sends the message to your brain that all’s well. As a result, your brain stops releasing stress hormones and you feel instantly happier!

Holiday stress-buster #5:
Recruit a helper to do a holiday chore

Then put your feet up and rest awhile. Studies show that when you’re running around trying to do everything
cook, clean, shop, decorateit elevates your adrenaline levels, which increases your heart rate and blood pressure. In other words, it causes a major stress-out. Taking a moment to relax lowers adrenaline levels and increases endorphins, feel-good brain chemicals. The result? You feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

Holiday stress-buster #6:
Put together a Thanksgiving scrapbook, decorate or do another type of art project

Research shows that working on arts and craft improves your outlook and makes you feel more optimistic. The reason? “It focuses your attention on something other than life’s stresses, which helps rest your mind and allows the brain to renew itself,” explains Seattle psychotherapist Dottie Billington, Ph.D., author of Life is an Attitude.

Holiday stress-buster #7:
L
ist of your favorite three holiday movies
"Then think of your favorite scene from them," suggests Tim O'Brien, Director of The Institute for Stress Management in Tallahassee, Florida. “Remember as much as you can about the dialogue, setting and characters. Doing this will help you relive the positive feelings that scene evoked, making you feel just as positive as when you first watched them!”

Holiday stress-buster #8:
List 5 things you love about the holidays

"This will shift your emphasis from dwelling on what's stressing you out about them
crowds, traffic, cookingto the great reasons you got excited about the holidays in the first place," says Richard Carlson, Ph.D., author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

Holiday stress-buster #9:
Play your favorite holiday music

A study from Penn State shows that no matter what kind of holiday tunes you like
chorals, rock, country or poplistening to your favorite holiday tunes will reduce stress and put you in a better mood. What’s more, if you’re already in a great mood, your seasonal CD will put you in an even better one, according to Valerie Stratton, Ph.D., who led the study. But the best part? You don’t have to stop what you’re doing to pay attention to the music. Playing it in the background while you cook, decorate or socialize with friends is enough to boost your spirits!

Holiday stress-buster #10:
Send a mood-lifting email that says it all

While sending holiday greetings to your friends, don’t hold back on sharing what’s stressing you out about the holiday season, too. According to a study of 143 students from Texas A&M University, this provides immediate release from all your worries! The reason? You’re creating an emotional connection. “And this increases the production of the hormone oxytocin, which reduces stress and produces a calming effect," explains Shelley Taylor, Ph.D., author of The Tending Instinct.  

Holiday stress-buster #11:
Have a 2nd helping of Thanksgiving turkey

The tryptophan in the turkey increases serotonin
a feel-good neurotransmitter that helps regulate moods. When your serotonin is increased, you feel happier, according to a study by the Brain & Behavior Institute of the University of Maastricht.

Holiday stress-buster #12:
Sniff holiday scents

Thanksgiving and Christmas are certainly full of delicious aromas
gingerbread cookies, pine-scented wreaths, baked turkey. Well, the next time you’re near one of these holiday scents, breathe in deep! A Québec study found that breathing in pleasant aromas make you feel instantly happier. The reason? Smells, which are processed through the deep limbic system and affect the hypothalamus, affect stress responses. While bad smells increase stress, delicious smells decrease it—instantly!

Holiday stress-buster #13:
Say something positive about the holidays

Like "I’ve gotten through Thanksgiving dinner with my family before." “This sends the message to your brain that you're in control," says Elizabeth Robbins Eschelman, MSW, co-author of the Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook. "That way, your brain won’t send your body signals to release stress hormones. As a result, you'll feel relaxed and happier."
 

  

 

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