What’s the secret to holiday stress-busting? Well, it’s no secret that the holidays can be stressful. For me, the initial excitement of the kids coming home and family coming in for the holidays is always followed closely by a slight feeling of panic. And then: oh, look! Panic has brought his good friends: stress and anxiety! Oh, yay! Welcome, everyone! Honestly, I’m thrilled to see everyone, but I’m a little sad that the slower pace and relaxing momentum of the empty nest is going to be (joyfully!) interrupted by our loved ones for several days or weeks. Yes, it is that very paradox that is the epitome of empty nesterdom, my friends! We’re in it together, you and me.
Stress is one of those things I have to work to combat during the holidays. I’ve found that if I don’t give it the attention it deserves, cracks begin to appear in other areas of my life: I find myself doing a poor job of guarding my words (SO important with our young adult kids at home); I start feeling sorry for myself (“Nobody is helping me!”); or, the stress manifests physically with a throbbing headache. So, what to do? The bottom line for all of us is that we know what to do. It’s just difficult to give ourselves permission to take the time to care for ourselves at this season of the year. Today, I’m giving both of us permission.
Eat Right & Exercise –
Certified dietitian and nutritionist, Wendy Howard, recommends that we keep two simple goals in mind throughout the holiday season: stay healthy and maintain your weight. For immune support and weight maintenance, she recommends following a plant-based diet with lean protein and allowing for a few extra sweets each week (not each day!). She also recommends adding either an extra day or an extra ten minutes daily to your regular workout routine.
Have you heard of 4-7-8 breathing? The numbers refer to the number of counts when breathing in, holding your breath, and exhaling. You can do it sitting up straight, or (my preferred method) flat on your back. Begin by placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth. Expand your diaphragm and inhale slowly for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7, then slowly exhale for a count of 8. Repeat this cycle four times. Do this at least twice a day. Some proponents tout this as a sure-fire way to fall asleep in 60 seconds.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Laughter stimulates circulation, oxygen intake, and muscle relaxation. Plus, it reminds us not to take things (or ourselves) too seriously. It is thought to boost the immune system, relieve pain, and improve mood. Need a good laugh in two minutes flat? I recently shared a bit from my favorite comedian, Tim Hawkins, on the Empty Nest Blessed Facebook page. In it, Tim shares that after 20 years of marriage, he’s finally discovered his wife’s love language: Swiffering. Watch it here.
Hug & Kiss –
Scientists have found that when you hug someone, it releases the stress-busting hormone oxytocin. That in turn, lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety, and even improves memory. Likewise, a recent study found the benefits of kissing include creating a sense of connectedness, which releases endorphins – the chemicals that counteract stress and depression. A fun and flirty way to incorporate kissing into your daily life is with Kisses 4 Us, a product I featured in the “Gifts for Him” section of my Holiday Gift Guide this year. The creator, Kim Knollmeyer, is an empty nester entrepreneur, and she was looking for a way to incorporate romance into her empty nester marriage. She and her husband invented Kisses 4 Us and decided they needed to share it with the world. I couldn’t agree more! (Click the image below for more information.)
Light a Candle –
As proponents of aromatherapy well know, scents can do wonders to reduce stress. Specifically, lavender, pine, jasmine, and vanilla are all associated with stress relief and relaxation. Find an essential oil that you love and breathe deeply to make that stress just melt away. I love essential oil diffuser necklaces as a way to keep your favorite essential oil with you all day. (My sister swears by hers as a way to combat stress!) If a candle is more your thing, there are some great highly-fragranced ones available. This Tory Burch Westerly candle is my go-to scent of the moment, but I also love this Maison Holiday Travel Tin (set of 4) gift set and this Maison Jardin Trio Gift Set from Voluspa. (Click the images below for more information.)
Take a Bath –
For me, a hot bath at the end of the day is just the thing I need to relax before bed. I love fragrant bath salts, moisturizing bath soaks, colorful bath bombs, and even a good old-fashioned bubble bath. I’ve got quite a collection of bath products! For me, there is nothing better than slipping into the tub. Ahhh….
Remember to keep the focus during the holidays on the Birthday Boy who came to save our lives. He loves you. Talk to Him. He hears us when we pray. (Jeremiah 33:3)
What do you do to relax during the holidays? I’d love it if you’d share your tried-and-true methods with me! Remember to take care of yourself. I give you permission!
Photo by Megan Weaver.
MY HOLIDAY LOOK