The holidays are here, and while they’re mostly wonderful and merry, they can also be incredibly stressful. Your work load gets doubles as you prepare for feasts and figure out the all-important gift giving. But instead of being overwhelmed, we have a few tricks to beat holiday stress that will leave you feeling cheery.
Admiring a pretty wreath banishes the blues.
You decorated the mantel with garlands and created a beautiful wreath for the front door…now it’s time to stop for a minute or two to really appreciate what you’ve produced. Scientists at Virginia’s University of Richmond say you’ll feel even more cheerful if you do! Their research suggests paying attention to your own accomplishments triggers the release of the mood-boosting brain hormone GABA, helping you feel 45 percent calmer and happier— often in as little as one minute.
Gifting yourself restores stamina.
It’s not just you—at least 80 percent of us would love to have more get-up-and-go over the holidays. The great news: A small addition to your shopping list can give you the energy you crave. Georgetown University researchers say picking up a little just-for-you treat (like a book or magazine, a yummy latte or a new nail color) when you’re tackling holiday errands will give you a 50 percent boost in stamina for up to 12 hours. Why? Showing yourself a bit of TLC instantly heightens your brain’s production of the energizing hormone dopamine.
Singing along shuts down aches and pains.
The physical strain of holiday prep work can leave you feeling achy and sore for up to 72 hours after a busy day. But turning up your favorite holiday tunes while you’re decorating the tree or tidying up before guests arrive could make your aches and pains plunge by as much as 60 percent, suggests research in the British Journal of Pain. Study co-author Sue Hodge, PhD, explains that singing along to music that makes us happy prompts the release of endorphins, powerful painkilling hormones.
Simmering gravy silences stress.
Taming tension is as easy as getting ready for dinner. Turns out repetitive kitchen tasks lower anxiety by 55 percent in 10 minutes. Florida State University scientists say paying attention to details like the feel of potatoes you’re peeling, their earthy aroma or the ripples that form when you stir gravy is a form of mindfulness that signals your brain to release mood-steadying serotonin, plus it calms the brain’s anxiety center.
Sniffing cinnamon boosts focus.
Inhaling the aroma of cinnamon while you’re tackling tasks can sharpen your focus in just two minutes, and for up to 90 minutes per sniff. That’s the word from Duke University researchers, who say the smell of cinnamon stimulates the release of focus-enhancing beta brain waves. Hint: Try adding a cinnamon stick to a small pot of water and let it simmer on the stove, or put a cinnamon stick in your mug if you’re sipping tea or coffee while you’re working.
Crunching candy canes ends indigestion.
Later holiday mealtimes and heavier fare can raise the risk of bloat and indigestion by 55 percent or more. But research in the journal Pain suggests you can erase that tummy turmoil in just 30 minutes by savoring a two-inch piece of a peppermint candy cane in the evening while you’re wrapping gifts or decorating. Study co-author Chris Martin, Ph.D., says the candy’s menthol stimulates digestive enzyme release and calms intestinal muscle spasms.
Now you know how to beat holiday stress with six simple tricks!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.