The holidays are supposed to be a happy time of year, full of love and light and laughter. So why do so many people walk around more stressed and less positive than during the rest of the year?
If you’re feeling a bit stressed right now, no worries. Because today I’m sharing five tips to keep you feeling joyful and light during the holidays, so you won’t age yourself over the course of one of the most wonderful times of the year.
Don’t Let Santa Bring You
Wrinkles and Puffiness for Christmas
Science has continually proven that stress can actually age you, and wrinkles, sagging skin, puffiness, and a dull complexion (among other things) are not what you want showing up in all those holiday pictures!  In fact, in a recent psychology study by the American Psychology Association, researchers found that stress increases for many around the holiday season, citing shopping, cooking, financial concerns, social obligations, and traveling as contributors to stress. 
The holidays happen at the same time every year, so you know they’re coming and just the anticipation leading up to the season can stress you out. Indeed, another study by University of California San Francisco researchers found that anticipating stressful situations may contribute to shorter telomeres, the caps at the ends of chromosomes, and those shorter telomeres are linked to cancer, heart disease, and strokes.  That is NOT what you asked Santa for!
Tip #1: Avoid the Mobs by Shopping Early
By early, I don’t mean 4 AM on Black Friday. Ugh no! It’s true that the sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas are fantastic. They’re also concentrated, which means you have to set yourself up for a full day or weekend—or several weekends in a row–of shopping at a time sometimes, battle the parking lots, get jostled around in crowds (and good luck getting a spot in an elevator!) It’s exhausting and stressful.
By shopping all throughout the year, you save yourself the stress of finding—and affording–the perfect gifts for everyone all within the small window at the end of the year that’s only a few weeks long. Why put that kind of pressure on yourself? Check coupon sites throughout the year, pick things up in boutiques as you see them instead of when the pressure’s on to find the perfect thing for each person on your list. Gifts that jump out at you that practically beg to be given to a certain someone are some of the best anyway, or make things throughout the year if you’re crafty (knit a scarf or create a photo album, for example).
This is great for next year, but now that the holidays are practically here this year, you can still avoid crowds by online shopping! We have a great gift guide coming out next week, so stay tuned. Online shopping is awesome in many ways, and so, so much easier than dealing with the crowds. You can also try to avoid shopping on weekends and try to sneak out during lunch hours or off nights.
Tip #2: Recognize Commercial
Pressures and Don’t Overextend
The holidays are the season for generosity, and if you feel compelled to give a gift and it won’t put a strain on you or your finances, you absolutely should! Just be careful to not overextend yourself financially, adding yet another dimension of pressure and stress. Finding the perfect gift is not as important as the commercials would have you believe. The amount of money you spend does not demonstrate how much you love someone. The time you spend with them does. If you can’t travel to see your loved ones, make time for a long phone call or Skype session, and send them a handwritten note expressing how grateful you are to have them in your life. Expressing your gratitude will make you feel happier, and it will have the same effect on the recipient.
Choose some family traditions (that don’t revolve around gifts) that you really love to do, then slow down to enjoy them. It could be bundling up and taking a nighttime walk around your neighborhood to enjoy the lights, whipping up a big batch of hot chocolate to enjoy while watching a family-friendly movie, or spending time in a soup kitchen as a group. Take those moments to spend with your loved ones and/or help other people to really reach out and experience the love, which is the heart of the holidays.
Tip #3: Focus on Family and Connections—
That’s Where the Joy Comes From
Despite what some may say, joy doesn’t come from a small, professionally wrapped box of jewelry, a massive tool collection, a car with a huge bow on top, or a new widescreen TV. If you took all of that away and replaced those paper-ripping, gift-giving moments with quality family time and lots of love, hugs, and smiles, you would still feel joy. Don’t get distracted by the gifts. Yes, they’re exciting to give and receive, but that’s not where the magic of the holiday season comes from. Instead of making another shopping trip, pencil in some time for family members. Make an effort to cook a nice homemade meal for them in lieu of getting a material present. I know I would love that gift!
The love that comes from within you, that you can share, is infinitely more powerful in bringing joy to loved ones over outer, material things.
Tip #4: Get Help in the Kitchen
In the psychology research conducted by the American Psychology Association, women often reported more stress than men. Why? Part of the reason is that much of the food and party preparations fall on their shoulders. Because of this, women should be especially mindful and cognizant of the need to ask for help from other family members. If this applies to you—I encourage you to seek help in the kitchen so you don’t feel the entire burden of cooking and prep just on you.
Ask the big strong men to chop some veggies! My husband does not know how to cook a thing, but he sure has learned to be a great chopper. Every time we have people over or even when I cook for clients, he has become a huge help to me. So just because your hubby or boyfriend or roommate can’t cook is no longer an excuse for why they can’t help! Have some older children in your family wash the veggies, hand them over to the dads and uncles, and then pass them to you all clean and ready to go. Turn food prep and cooking into family time. You may create some beautiful memories and funny stories to share for years to come. At the very least, have other family members bring one or two things to contribute to the meal so you don’t have to do it all.
Tip #5: Double up on Veggies and Exercise
To counter the effects of being more sedentary and perhaps straying from healthy eating, it’s extra important to prioritize exercise and the right foods. Veggies and exercise both have a detoxifying effect on the body and can help prevent (or at least minimize!) weight gain over the holidays when everyone’s tempting you with cookies and cakes and you’re spending more time in the car on your way to visit loved ones.
Certain veggies, like celery, have a balanced level of electrolytes and can help you shed some of the puffiness in your face (bags under your eyes, for example) that comes from eating some of the wrong foods or getting too little sleep. Even if you think you’re going to fall off the healthy eating wagon later in the day, start off with the Glowing Green Smoothie. You’ll get your day off to a good start by consuming lots of detoxifying veggies, including lettuce, celery and some fruit, too.
Unhealthy foods and poor choices in food combining can clog your system, making you lower in energy, lethargic, and less cheerful over the holiday season. Exercising, especially when paired with several healthy doses of vegetables throughout the day, can help you eliminate more regularly and keep you feeling amazing throughout the entire season.
Take a Breath and Let Things Flow
You’ll never have another moment just like this one to enjoy your family and friends. There’s always next year, but everyone will be a little bit different and your relationships may have changed over the course of twelve months. Take each opportunity to revel in the beauty and bliss that comes from being in a room full of people who love and care about each other as only family and close friends can.
Relax. Take the pressure off of yourself so you don’t miss those moments or cause unnecessary strain on yourself at a cellular level. Don’t rush through and wait for the chaos to pass; stand still in the middle of it all, calm and centered, and just take everything in. You’ll feel happier, more blessed, and your health won’t suffer from the stress of the holidays when you approach them like this. Stay present amongst the chaos, and enjoy yourself!