Cheat Sheet: How to Stay Cool and Stress-Free for the Holidays

December 3, 2015

It’s holiday time! Good food, traditions, our favorite people all in one room—we get all the feels just thinking about it.

But even the cheeriest among us can feel the heat when it comes to balancing holiday preparations with work, family, and everything else. Breathe easy—we’ve got a gift for you. These simple and healthy tips and tricks for the mind, body, and skin will help you keep your cool whether you’re late for a festive soiree or having friends over for a rowdy game of Cards Against Humanity.


Reflex reaction

If holiday planning and hosting is getting overwhelming, a little reflexology might be in order. For quick stress relief, find the squishy upside-down triangle between your thumb and pointer finger. With your opposite hand, firmly squeeze this area while breathing deeply for about 30 seconds. Stimulating this pressure point (called the Union Valley) releases muscle tension and stress. Want to learn some more reflexology tricks? Head over here.

Natural headache relief

Just in case the holidays turn into a headache, keep these natural headache (or hangover) cures in your pocket.

  • Cayenne pepper: A peptide in the body called substance P transmits pain signals from the sensory nerves to the central nervous system. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper depletes this substance. Dilute ¼ teaspoon of cayenne powder in four ounces of warm water, soak a cotton swab in the solution, and inhale through the nasal passages. You’ll feel the heat initially, but the headache should subside shortly after.
  • Lavender oil: Coumarin compounds in lavender can facilitate the opening and closing of blood vessels, which helps relieve headaches. Inhale the oil directly, or put two to four drops in two to three cups of boiling water and breathe in the vapors.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Inflammation of blood cells can press and pinch nerves. Prevent that by eating plenty of omega-3s. Flaxseeds and fish oil are great sources.

Meditation essentials

Take a moment to reset and recharge with small doses of meditation. It doesn’t have to be an hour—a quick session while you’re beating some eggs, waiting for the oven to preheat, or even sitting at the dinner table does the trick. Keep these fundamentals in mind.


Work it

Feeling sluggish before guests have even arrived? Pump yourself up and get your blood flowing with this adrenaline-boosting half-burpee.

  • Start in a plank position on your hands, body parallel to the floor. Pull your belly button back toward the spine and contract your core muscles.
  • Jump your feet forward so they land directly behind your wrists, keeping your hands on the ground and toes pointing at your wrists. Try to press your heels to the floor; you should be in a low squat position.
  • From a low squat, jump both feet backward to land in your plank position. That’s it!
  • Repeat 10 times. For a slightly easier version, simply step feet forward to come to the squat and back to get into plank.

Ease up

Between shopping, cooking, and entertaining, holiday stress can manifest as tension and pain. But popping an ibuprofen just to get through it isn’t the only option. Here are some natural ways to ease tension.

  • Extra virgin olive oil: The oleocanthal in EVOO inhibits inflammatory enzymes the same way ibuprofen or aspirin does. Try massaging a bit of it directly onto your joints. (Make sure it’s extra virgin or cold-pressed, since heat diminishes oleocanthal.)
  • Turmeric and ginger tea: Turmeric and ginger have powerful antioxidant properties and can reduce inflammation-causing enzymes. Together they make a soothing elixir. Heat a cup of water and add ¼ teaspoon each of ground ginger and ground turmeric. For a sweet touch, add honey and sip the pain away.
  • Dandelion: Dandelion is high in vitamins A and C, which can help repair damaged tissue and promote a healthy liver for clearing out inflammation-causing toxins. Sprinkle chopped leaves as an herb garnish on food, or drink dandelion root tea as you decompress.
  • Willow bark: The active ingredient in aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid, which is similar to the salicylic acid that forms in the body when the active ingredient in willow bark—salicin—is broken down. In fact, willow bark is often called “nature’s aspirin.” Take a willow bark supplement to relieve body pain, particularly in the lower back.
  • Epsom salt soak: When the last guest leaves, draw a bath and add about two cups of Epsom salt—it’s rich in magnesium, which can relax muscles and nerve endings. You’ll feel the pain melt away.


Skin food

When gearing up for holiday parties (and photos!), put your best face forward by including these skin-boosting foods into your diet.

  • Vitamin A: Crucial to skin regeneration and cell turnover, vitamin A gives you some of the same benefits as a retinol treatment. Dried apricots, red bell peppers, kale, and cod liver oil, are all great sources.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C boosts collagen production and reduces inflammation. The result? Skin that heals more quickly from acne scars and stays firmer in the long run. Get the most vitamin C straight from whole foods like broccoli, papaya, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Walnuts: Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat, is the main component of the lubricating layer of the skin—but our bodies don’t produce it naturally. Walnuts are chock full of it, and also high in zinc, which has been proven to fight acne when taken regularly.

Pretty peepers

We know—traveling and making the holiday-party rounds can take a toll on eyes. Banish under-eye bags with these easy home remedies.

  • Take off that makeup!: Forgetting to remove mascara or eye shadow before bed could irritate your eyes overnight, causing swelling and redness. Try a super gentle makeup remover, makeup removing wipe, or coconut oil.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Since under-eye bags are often just due to your sinuses retaining fluid, upping your water intake might be enough to solve the problem. Make sure you’re getting plenty of H2O every day. Apply moisturizer to the delicate area around the eyes right before bed to hydrate and give skin cells a boost.
  • Try a classic cucumber treatment: Yep, there’s a valid reason spas stock up on cucumber slices. The antioxidants in this cooling veggie help counteract puffiness, and popping slices in the fridge before applying them to lids gives them even more de-puffing power.
  • Tea bags to the rescue: Cool, moist black tea bags can tighten skin and erase bags. Steep two bags of any type of black tea, let them cool in the fridge, and then apply them to lids and try to relax for 10 minutes or more. The tannins in the tea will do their job in no time. Happy holidays!

Illustration by Foley Wu

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