Fight Holiday Stress

According to Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal, there are three things that will stress you out the most during the holidays: spending more than you have, overbooking your schedule and remembering a loved one you miss.

“We envision picture-perfect holidays,” says McGonigal, “and can feel crushed by the gap between imagination and reality.”

Saying we won’t let ourselves get emotional is like saying we won’t eat a second slice of Abuelita’s flan: not going to happen. So how do we fight the inevitable surge of stress? The first step is to pay attention. Be on the lookout for throbbing tension headaches, excessive fatigue, and blood pressure spikes, which are early signs that you are on your way to meltdown. And when you’re full-on overwhelmed, don’t go for the usual indulgences. A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that eating junk food, shopping, drinking alcohol, surfing the Web, watching TV/movies and spending money frivolously were the least effective ways to relieve symptoms of stress.

Here’s what worked, according to the survey:

  • Exercising and playing sports
  • Reading
  • Listening to music
  • Spending time with family, friends and pets
  • Meditating and practicing yoga
  • Praying or attending religious services
  • Doing creative projects and hobbies

Jot this list down and slip it into your wallet, along with soothing words such as “happy,” “accept” and “free.” It may sound corny, but it works! Not your style? Try a five-minute walk: “It boosts mood,” says McGonigal. “That’s a pretty immediate payoff, and it offers more stress-relief than you’d get from an hour-long jog!”

by Julie D. Andrews