Caroline Wallace combines two of her passions—science writing and complementary and alternative medicine, along with her knowledge of DoTERRA Essential Oils.

Three Tips for Handling Holiday Stress

Let’s be honest: not everyone is into the holidays. Say what?! There are many personal and valid reasons why someone may not feel festive. Whether you’re team year-round-holiday-lights or you thought the Grinch was onto something, there are some things you can do to help keep your stress levels lower this holiday season. 

  1. Manage your expectations. Going into the holidays – whether it’s the whole season itself or a particular event like the get-together with that one person who just gives you the creeps – thinking it will be great fun sets you up for disappointment. But expecting it to be eye rollingly awful doesn’t leave room for there to be anything good about it at all and invites the potential for a self-fulfilling prophecy. In between delight and dread is space for something to be just so-so. We’re not used to aiming for a neutral experience, but we can. It’s allowed, and it can be helpful.
  1. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. It’s unrealistic to assume that you (or anyone else, for that matter) will feel holly jolly all. the. time. And, newsflash, it’s okay not to. This is especially true around the holidays when feelings of grief and loss may be amplified. It’s important to acknowledge what you’re really feeling while keeping in mind that feelings are not facts – they’re messengers. Check in with yourself to find out what your feelings are telling you, and give others the space to be authentic with their feelings, too. 
  1. Breathe. This seems obvious, but I don’t mean your regular involuntary breathing. I’m talking about breathing with intention, breathing to calm yourself, and breathing to stay in the moment. Box breathing is a technique where you exhale as much air as possible, then inhale slowly for a count of four. Hold your breath for another four counts, and exhale for (you guessed it!) a count of four. Hold your breath for one last count of four, then start over. If you ever wanted to be like a Navy SEAL, here’s your chance. They are among a number of people who use box breathing to reduce stress, calm their minds, and activate their parasympathetic nervous systems. I bet some of them even use it during holidays. 

Of course, none of these are instant remedies for a happy holiday season. However, they are a good place to start when you aren’t sure where to begin. It’s important to remember that sometimes coping skills like these just aren’t enough. It’s okay to need help from a mental health pro – that’s literally why we have mental health pros. And, if things get really heavy and you or someone you know has moved past stress to distress, call 988.

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