Try these unconventional ways to lessen stress this holiday season.
Brew some comfort
Make teatime a stress reliever, said Dr. Teri Gabel, a board-certified psychiatric pharmacy specialist in Omaha.
Experiment with the various types and strengths of chamomile, passion flower, lavender and lemon balm teas to find the right combination for you. All are said to reduce anxiety and bring about relaxation. You can find these teas in grocery stores.
Follow the brewing instructions, she advised. Sip hot or iced tea all day. Ask yourself to rate your stress on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being you're ready to strangle the next person who says “Have a nice holiday.”
Then rate your stress level after a cup of soothing tea (it should be lower).
Find an alternate universe
Read more fantasy to combat loneliness. Reading fantasies such as the popular Twilight vampire series or the Harry Potter collection helps satisfy a need for human connection, according to research at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Sink your teeth into a fantasy story and you'll feel closer to others in the comfort of your own space and feel a sense of belonging, the research indicates.
Take a 15-minute break
Fifteen minutes of “alone time” might be just what you need to refresh yourself, say psychiatrists at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University.
Try taking a walk around the block when relatives make your holiday meal a disaster. Walk briskly and you'll be adding exercise — an effective stress reliever — to the mix. To dramatically improve your mood, get a daily dose of winter sunlight.
Give gifts to remember
Consider giving tickets to a college football or basketball game, the Omaha Community Playhouse or the Rose Theater, or to a musical performance at the Orpheum Theater or Holland Performing Arts Center. Buy memberships to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the Omaha Children's Museum or Joslyn Art Museum.
Start a new tradition
A family Wii competition, Scrabble tournament, fierce game of Apples to Apples or Frisbee golf gets everyone active after tackling a table overflowing with food.
Have guests bring a $5 gift card and exchange them so everyone wins something in the competition.
Be a bubble popper
Popping bubble wrap relieves stress, according to a study by a Western New England College psychologist who observed that subjects' hands started to tighten as they became tense. Bubble poppers were more relaxed, calm and energized when compared with a control group who did nothing.
No bubble wrap handy in that pile of holiday wrapping paper? Try other finger and hand activities such as knitting, whittling, doodling, tapping a pencil or drumming your fingers.
Provide getaway time
If you know someone who is caring for an aging parent in their home — especially for a loved one with dementia — that caregiver would surely appreciate the gift of your time.
Volunteer to spend a few hours with the elderly person (even spend the night) while the caregiver does whatever the caregiver wants to do. What caregivers often want most is a good night's sleep, according to Home Instead care workers.
Volunteer at an assisted living facility or nursing home to give the staff a much-needed break. Volunteering has been shown to make you feel good about yourself, according to a Canadian study.
Laughter is medicine
A healthy dose of belly laughs, just 15 minutes a day, is good for your heart and relieves stress, say researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Laughter appears to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels to expand to accommodate increased blood flow. These same blood vessels play a big role in heart health.
Attend a funny family movie together or watch your favorite old sitcom on Netflix. Laugh away your stress like Santa does, with a bowl full of cherries, which also have health benefits (they ward off painful gout attacks).
Quick stress Rx
Write the word “BREATHE” on a sticky note and place it where you will see it often: as your computer wallpaper, on the car dashboard, at your workstation, on the cash register at work or as your cell phone home screen.
When you see the note, mentally disengage from what is going on around you. Take several slow, deep breaths. Count to 5 each time you inhale and 5 as you exhale, according to “The Resiliency Advantage,” a book by Al Siebert.
Listen to the rhythm of the falling . . . snowflake
The delicate six-pointed ice crystals contain air pockets, which create the snowflake's own little “resonant sigh,” such as the chiming of a tiny bell as it gently settles onto the surface of a body of water.
That sound is what fish would hear and what scientists are measuring. And that's why snowflakes really do make the water “ring,” according to research in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America: Nature. Next time it snows, go outside in the quiet and just listen.
Tell Scrooge to scram
Don't be the person who refuses to celebrate or get into the holiday spirit. People who complain about the holidays cause stress for everyone around them, said communications expert Barbara Pachter, author of “The Power of Positive Confrontation.”
Attend your neighborhood gathering or work party. Wish people happy holidays. Send holiday cards (and thank-you notes for gifts). If tempers flare while shopping, stop and ask yourself, “Is this really worth getting upset about?” before you “lose it” at the perfume counter.
If you're under the weather with a seasonal cold, stir up a pot of hearty chicken soup.
According to research done at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Grandma's chicken soup might contain substances that might help shorten the course of the sniffles, but it also just might make you feel better anyway. Make enough for a sick friend and you'll both feel better.
Remember what matters
With so much commercial hype about the holidays, it's easy to think that the holidays are all about material things.
Forgetting the true meaning of the holidays ends up making you depressed, stressed out and unhappy. Focus on giving to others, being with family and doing nice things for other people.
You'll enjoy the holidays with the least amount of conflict.
Sandra Wendel writes about health for various news sources and has been a guest blogger on momaha.com.