Most people would agree that the holidays are their favorite time of year, as well as the most stressful. There are so many things to do with so little time - you have to find the perfect tree, decorate the house, plan and cook the holiday meal, and, of course, buy presents for family and friends.
But it's important to keep your stress in check, no matter what time of the year it is because stress can wreak havoc on your health. When you encounter a stressor, your body goes into a fight-or-flight response and your adrenal glands release hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Once the stress has passed, the hormone levels go back to normal. But if you're constantly stressed, your body is constantly exposed to those hormones, and that can lead to heart disease, depression, weight gain, sleeping problems and digestive issues.
So if just thinking about holiday shopping has you feeling stressed out, then the tips mentioned below should help you calm your nerves.
1. Shop Early
It's only a few days before Christmas and you still haven't started buying gifts for anyone on your list. Sound familiar? It's probably the biggest holiday shopping nightmare, but it's also the easiest to solve. Simply start your holiday shopping early. It's never too early to start shopping for your loved ones and it can take a load of pressure off of your mind when the holidays come around. Just set aside a special area of your closet for gifts, so when you buy something you know someone in your family will like, you can store it until it is time to start handing out presents.
2. Shop Online or Through TV
Shopping online or through a home shopping channel can be fun, easy and quick, and the best part about it is that you can avoid the crazy crowds and long lines. Just make sure you allow enough time for your items to ship to your address.
3. Stick to a Budget
It's very easy to spend a lot of money around the holidays, even if you don't have the means to do so. If you're afraid of going overboard while playing Santa, make a budget and stick to it. If you have in mind what you're going to buy everybody, add up the expenses beforehand so you don't feel surprised at the register. If you think you're going to spend too much or go over budget, cut out some of the big purchases or buy one or two gifts for everyone instead of three or four.
4. Give DIY Gifts
Another way to reduce holiday stress by going over your shopping budget is to make your own gifts. It's thoughtful and can mean a whole lot more to someone than a store-bought gift.
5. Drink Tea, Not Coffee
If you have a long day of shopping ahead of you, you might think of stopping by your favorite coffee shop and grabbing a latte to help you stay awake and alert. But before you grab that coffee, know that it will raise your level of cortisol, one of those stress hormones that are harmful to your health. Instead, drink chamomile or black tea. They can fight stress and keep you calm while shopping.
6. Get Some Exercise
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and muscle tension. It's also a great way to keep off the extra holiday weight that you struggle to get rid of after the first of the year. Don't let your shopping time eat into your regular workout routine. Remember, abide by tip #1 and you should be fine.
Meditating doesn't mean sitting cross-legged on the ledge of the mall fountain and chanting. It means taking your mind off of what's stressing you out and focusing on being calm. Meditation can be done through any activity including walking, jogging, swimming, reading, or even standing in line at the mall. So if holiday shopping has you frazzled, engage in some meditation to free your mind from the chaos.
8. Try a Relaxation Technique
Relaxation techniques are similar to meditation since they take your focus off of what's stressing you out. There are three different techniques you can try: visualization, autogenic relaxation and progressive muscle relaxation. Visualization allows you to imagine yourself in stress-free place, such as a beach or tropical island. Autogenic relaxation is where you repeat images or words in your mind to relax and reduce muscle tension. Progressive muscle relaxation is where you tense and relax the muscles in your body, from your head to your toes.
9. Breathe Deeply
If the last Barbie doll is snatched off of the shelf in front of you, don't clobber the person who grabbed it. Just take a deep breath. When you're stressed out, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths, but a few deep breaths can have you feeling calm in no time. Try relaxing your chest and exhaling slowly. Imagine your stomach as your center and inhale, expanding your back, sides and chest. Exhale slowly and relax your chest again. Repeat the process a few more times until you feel calm.
10. Take a Break
If all else fails, just take a break. The holidays are about spending time with your loved ones, so get out of the mall and get home to your family. It's the best present you can give and it's absolutely free.