Take the Edge Off the Holidays: 6 Natural Holiday Stress Relief Tips

The holidays are usually a joyous and wonderful time of the year for most, but for many of us they can also be very stressful. Whether it’s related to gift-giving anxiety, travel upsets, inclement weather, difficult family dynamics, isolation or overindulgence, this time of year can make us all more susceptible to colds, flu, fatigue, depression and general malaise.

Instead of allowing ourselves to go into hibernation mode as there is less and less sunlight during the holiday season, we pull our coats tight and brave the cold weather, traffic jams, crowds, and long lines to get our gift shopping done (often at the last minute). We stay out late, drink too much, eat too much, and scramble under pressure to complete projects or plans before the close of the year.

Add the pressure of living up to the expectations of family and the inevitable weather-related travel upsets and you’ve got a recipe for major stress.

So what can you do to take a little bit of the edge off this time of year? Here are some tips to help you keep your stress to a minimum and improve your mood so you can enjoy the holiday season with some sanity:

Get plenty of rest. Stay hydrated and remember to breathe … deeply! Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night or make up for lost sleep by taking naps or sleeping in. Lower alcohol consumption and drink plenty of other fluids, especially water, to stay hydrated. And remember to breathe deeply.

Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars. OK, I know this is a tough one, but it can make a huge difference in how you feel! Refined carbs tend to spike then deplete your serotonin levels leaving you exhausted. So, indulge a little, but try to stick to healthier treats like dark chocolate or seasonal fruits. Balance things out by eating fiber-rich serotonin-enhancing foods like whole grains, root vegetables, beans, legumes, seeds and nuts, along with a little lean protein (turkey or fish).

Load up on Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Research shows a strong association between Omega-3 fats and brain health. Definitely a case of the more the merrier! Your brain needs a certain amount of fat to function properly and remain healthy. but not all fats are created equal. Some of the ones you may think of as unhealthy are actually good for you (in spite of the conventional wisdom), while others that you may have been led to believe are healthy, are actually quite harmful for you due to their high Omega 6 content, not to mention the significant amount of processing that goes into making them. That’s why it’s important to increase you essential fatty acid intake during the winter months and times of high stress like the holidays. You can get your omega 3s from wild caught salmon, walnuts, avocados and chia seeds!

Slow down. Take time to savor and enjoy the rituals of the season. Stay present with yourself and everyone around you and practice forgiveness and acceptance. Remember, you can choose to let go of whatever is troubling you for the moment.

Reach out to others, especially those in need. The holidays can magnify feelings of isolation or loneliness for those who can’t be with family or don’t have family to be with. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and comfort if you are in need. Helping others in need also has a profoundly healing and uplifting effect, both physiological and psychological.

Surround yourself with uplifting and nurturing sounds and smells. During the holiday season it is especially important to surround yourself with soothing and uplifting smells and sounds. Listen to music that makes you happy and calm even if its not holiday music. A great place to start is with one of our Soothe collection of aromatherapy products. The combination of lavender, geranium, clary sage and chamomile essential oils in this blend help you stay calm and grounded, even when things around you are a little chaotic.

If you need a little extra help adjusting your mood try our Inspiration blend with it’s uplifting mix of citrus essential oils –sure to put a smile on even the most stubborn of scowls. If traditional holiday smells stress you out or make you depressed, avoid them as much as possible.

More Tips for How Parents and Kids Can Manage Their Back to School Stress

In this Good Morning America piece called Don’t Let Back to School Stresses Get to You, you learn a little bit about the different types of stresses affecting both parents and children. It also includes an interview where Dr. Marie Savard shares tips with George Stephanopoulos for how parents and kids can cut the stress related to going Back to School. If you’ve got kids and are dealing with Back to School stress, you might find the additional information and tips in this report useful.

Screen Shot from Good Morning America segment

The Best Essential Oils for Relieving Stress and Insomnia

Essential oils can play a valuable role in managing or relieving your stress and can help you induce a state of calm for a restful sleep. The trick is to find the right combination of oils that resonate with you, and then the best way or ways to use them for maximum benefit.

Let’s start by look at which essential oils have calming, soothing, and sedative properties that can be used alone or combined for even greater impact. Of course the first ones that immediately come to mind are Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium, Clary Sage, Cedarwood and Sandalwood.

Next up are citrus essential oils like Sweet Orange, Lemon, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Mandarin, and Lime. While these oils are generally stimulating and uplifting, when used in small quantities and properly combined with other essential oils, they can do wonders for your state of mind, and state of mind is really what it’s all about when it comes to relaxing and falling asleep!

Other essential oils that are also useful in this area are Marjoram (Sweet or Spanish), which is a muscle relaxant, Fir Balsam, Spruce, Peru Balsam, and Melissa, all of which calm and balance the nervous system and assist with opening your breathing passages – enabling deeper breathing. And last but not least, Frankincense & Myrrh, which are often used to assist with meditation.

That’s a lot of essential oils I just listed! The key is to find three to five oils that work together and create a blend. If you’re not that into experimenting or don’t have access to a wide selection of essential oils, then start with individual notes and see how each makes you feel. Keep a notebook handy and record which ones and how much they helped. Then after you’ve identified a handful of oils that seem to work on their own, you can try combining them. Of course you can always try our Sleep Ease Diffuser Blend, which combines Tangerine, Lavender, Pine, Marjoram, Fir Balsam and Petitgrain, as a starting point.

Natural Solution for Insomnia: Reduce Emotional Stress with Journaling

Since stress is the biggest contributor to sleeplessness this seems like the best place to start. If the main source of your stress is mental or emotional then there are a variety of methods you can use to help you relax and get in the proper frame of mind for rest.

Journaling. More often than not, restless sleep is the result of your subconscious mind trying to resolve conflicts and fears. One way to get a handle on these is to keep a journal. It’s helpful to write down any problems or issues you may be struggling with and then come up with a solution or more than one for how to handle each one.

You can draw a vertical line down the middle of a page in your notebook or journal, dividing it into two columns. At the top of the left column write down the title “Problem” or Concern” and at the top of the right column write the title “Possible Solutions or Strategies.” Then start writing down in the left column a list of the various problems, worries or concerns you have that may be keeping you up at night. In the right column, adjacent to each problem write down one or more possible ways of handling or resolving it if or when it comes up. The more involved the problems are the more paper you will need. If you have to, use one page per issue and give yourself plenty of writing space to come up with a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C etc.

Knowing that you have a strategy or plan for handling problems will put your mind at ease, even if they’re not entirely fleshed out. Another important part of this exercise is to pay attention to the underlying or “hidden” emotions behind your problems and your thoughts about them. There’s a good chance that a lot of the problems you are pre-occupied with are really a manifestation of a deeper underlying fear you have – fear of loss, fear of not being enough, fear of not being loved or understood. Try to identify the real fears you have as clearly as possible and check in with yourself about how likely they are to actually be true! A lot of times when we’re in a state of worry or stress we tend to overstate or exaggerate the situation. Try to see things as objectively as possible – not better than or worse than they are. Ask yourself “Is this true?” then ask yourself “Can I be absolutely sure that this true?”

Naming and facing your feelings (i.e. fear, anger, sadness, hurt) directly, will help quiet your mind come bedtime. And just the act of writing thoughts and feelings down on paper gets them out of your head (and your imagination). Also, pay attention to the language you use to describe your problems and feelings and try to shift from a negative perspective to a more positive one – i.e. focus on what’s working rather than what’s not or focus on appreciating what you have rather than fretting about what you don’t have. So another tool you can try is a Gratitude Journal where you just write down everyday, all the things in your life you’re grateful for.

For more information on dealing with stubborn emotional troubles that cause suffering (and ultimately sleeplessness) check out The Work by Byron Katie.