In a casual poll of our office mates here at Thrive HQ, 100 percent of those questioned admitted they experience anxiety along with Yuletide joy. Considering 20 percent of the population already deals with anxiety year-round, seasonal stressors might just make things worse. Gift shopping, traveling long distances through packed airports, and visiting family and friends are enough to make anyone dread what's supposed to be a celebratory time of year.
But don't let stress get you down and ruin your plans. This year, enjoy the last few weeks of 2015 and stay cool with these tips.
1. Stick to your routine.
Just because your family might be in town doesn't mean you should blow off your weekly Pilates class or a standing Tuesday night happy hour with friends. No, it's not rude—keeping your routine can help you stay sane, and allows you to truly enjoy your time with family.
2. Don't overspend.
How stressful is it to think about your credit card statement come January 1st? Eek! There are tons of extra purchases around the holiday season—decorations, gifts, traveling, and of course, food. Create a budget for yourself ahead of time and stick to it by shopping smart. (Psst, Thrive Market has wholesome goods at wholesale prices, so you can shop for your favorite holiday foods and even gifts without breaking the bank!)
3. Take a whiff of citrus oil.
Surprisingly, orange or lemon oil is just as effective, if not more, than spa-inspired lavender scents when it comes to stress-relieving aromatics. Sprinkle a few drops into palms and inhale deeply whenever your family starts to drive you bananas.
4. Turn your music up.
Steal a move from Kevin McAllister's playbook and turn up the tunes. Whether you're a fan of "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" a la Home Alone or Fetty Wap on full blast, put on whatever makes you wanna dance. According to a study done by the University of Missouri, upbeat music can boost your mood significantly.
5. Start a new tradition.
The holidays can be a challenging time if you're dealing with loss. If you're going through a breakup or experiencing the holidays for the first time since a loved one passed away, participating in the same old traditions can be devastating. Make some new ones of your own: Cook up a totally vegan Christmas dinner, run a race on Christmas day, or jet off to the beach instead. Creating new memories that aren't a constant reminder of years past can help you move on while still enjoying your holiday.
6. Don't overdo it!
It's OK to say "no." You don't have to go to every cocktail party, try every holiday-themed drink, or buy gifts for all of your coworkers. Commit to a few things that you really enjoy, and truly take pleasure in doing those things.
7. Get crafty.
Coloring is the new Ambien, and it's undeniable that it's difficult to be stressed when you're totally focused on the work at hand. Try making your own decorations this year, and don't freak out if they don't turn out perfectly—just enjoy the process, and the fact that you're saving money and having a more eco-friendly holiday.
8. Fresh air > An endless loop of The Christmas Story.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and it has a lot to do with not getting enough vitamin D during the winter months. If you feel a case of the sads coming on, as so many people do during the holidays, get outside. The vitamin D from the sun will do you good, and even a 20-minute walk will get your blood pumping.
9. Get it on with your boo.
Speaking of getting your blood pumping, a session between the sheets with your significant other will get the dopamine flowing to your brain. The result? Post-coital bliss that will hopefully help you deal when faced with spending the holidays with your difficult in-laws.
10. Stock up on probiotics.
Not only will probiotics help you digest Grandma's decadent pumpkin pie cheesecake a little more easily, but taking your daily dose of healthy bacteria can help you maintain a positive outlook, even if you're snowed in with your entire family. Fermented foods and probiotics have been shown to help with social anxiety, too—so pop a few of your favorite probiotics before your next gathering to bring out your inner social butterfly.
11. Consider this the perfect time to start working out.
"Working out gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." Elle Woods had it right—endorphins do make us happier. The euphoric feeling that washes over you after a particularly challenging sweat session is just the thing to help combat SAD ... and give you a little more patience to deal with your annoying siblings.
12. Add some spice to that eggnog.
Even if you don't have time for a muscle-rippling workout, you can still break a sweat by adding a little cayenne or hot pepper to your favorite seasonal dishes and drinks. Turns out that spicy food increases the body's production of endorphins, which make you happy.
13. Spread the love.
This time of year, it's easy to get all "me, me, me"—and that self-centered thinking can get in your head about every little thing and bring your spirits down, fast. Instead of worrying about whether your mother-in-law will like her gift, why not spend some time volunteering? Helping others makes you happier, and it's even been shown to increase your lifespan! Find opportunities at your local food bank at FeedingAmerica.org. Short on time? You can donate a portion of your savings at checkout to Feeding America when shopping Thrive Market. Every little bit counts!
14. Go tech-free.
Something my Italian father started demanding a few Christmases back—as soon as you set foot in the house, you've gotta drop your iPhone in a basket by the door. At first, everyone grumbles a little bit ("But how will we take pictures?!"; "I'm expecting a call."; "This is torture!") but after a few hours, it feels freeing. Don't be tethered to your phone. Make eye contact, engage, and step out of your comfort—and Wi-Fi—zone. After all, being truly present with the ones you love is what the holidays are for.
Illustration by Foley Wu