MISSION: SQUASH STRESS
13 scientifically-proven ways to beat holiday stress
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:
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
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!)
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
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!
Recruit a helper to do a holiday chore
your feet up and rest awhile. Studies show that when
you’re running around trying to do everything—cook,
clean, shop, decorate—it 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.
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
is an Attitude.
List 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!”
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, cooking—to 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.
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
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!
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.
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.
Sniff holiday scents
Thanksgiving and Christmas are certainly full of delicious
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
Say something positive about the holidays
Like "I’ve gotten through Thanksgiving dinner with my
“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."