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Happy Healthy Holidays

Posted: December 14, 2017

Here are some tips to fight holiday stress, and help you relax and enjoy the season.

Hike your mood with sunlight

It stimulates the production of feel-good serotonin and helps relieve seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects millions of Americans every year, says Judith Orloff, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles.

To ease SAD symptoms, spend time outdoors or near a window on sunny days, or ask your doc about phototherapy (a treatment using a box that emits full-spectrum light).

Take a whiff of citrus

Researchers studying depression have found that certain citrus fragrances boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress by upping levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that affects mood.

For an all-day pick-me-up, dab a little lemon or orange essential oil on a handkerchief to tuck in your pocket.

Walk away from worries

"The rhythm and repetition of walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, and it decreases anxiety and improves sleep," says nutrition-and-wellness expert Ann Kulze, MD. Aim for a brisk, half-hour walk every day.

Do less, enjoy more

"We go overboard to please others during the holidays: shopping, cooking, sending cards, and attending every event," says George Pratt, PhD, a psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla in California. "Instead, take care of yourself by saying no at least once—and maybe more."

Don't neglect whatever cracks you up

Laughing like crazy reduces stress hormones. That, in turn, helps immune cells function better, says psychologist Steve Wilson, founder of the World Laughter Tour, an organization that offers therapeutic-laughter training.

Forget perfection

Stop obsessing over doing it all. The world is not going to end if the house is a little cluttered, or dinner is on the table a few minutes late. "Focus your energy on enjoying the people in your life," says Donna Schempp, the program director for the Family Caregiver Alliance. Don't sweat the small stuff and your holiday will be much more enjoyable!

Go tech-free

Constant cell phone buzzes and email alerts keep us in a perpetual fight-or-flight mode due to bursts of adrenaline. Not only is this exhausting, but it contributes to mounting stress levels, especially in women. What better time to turn your gadgets off than during a holiday get-together? Enjoy spending time with your family and friends without worry.

Eat breakfast before you tank up on coffee

Caffeine on an empty stomach can cause blood sugar levels to spike, which can cause attention problems and irritability, says New York City–based clinical psychologist Joe Cilona, PsyD.

Give a 'hands-on' gift

In one study, participants who gave massages had fewer medical woes and less stress than those who received rubdowns.

Turn up the tunes

Anxious? Listen to your favorite music, whether it's Jingle Bell Rock or the latest from Jay-Z. Research from the University of Maryland shows that hearing music you love can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. That not only calms you down but is good for your heart, too.

Fit in exercise

It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you're stressed out, but going for a run or hitting the gym can actually make you feel better. Research has found that workouts can boost your mood for up to 12 hours.

Think positive

The holidays may drive you to your breaking point, but don't focus on the bad. Negative thinking can trigger the your body's stress response, just as a real threat does. Remember, it's time to celebrate with your family and friends (even if they do stress you out!). An optimistic outlook will help you cope with challenges that come your way.

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