Rethink How to Reduce Your Stress Levels Over the Holidays

It may only be November, but already the holiday season is upon us—with gifts to buy, parties to plan (and attend), loved ones to visit, and more. To help you survive the notoriously hectic months ahead, we talked to Erin Stair, MD, founder of Blooming Wellness and creator of ZENTones, and got her quick-fix de-stressing tips.


1. LOL

Sure, it can be hard to find the humor in certain stressful situations (like, say, when your in-laws surprise visit), but a good, hearty chuckle can help you keep your cool. Dr. Stair suggests inhaling for three to five seconds. Then, instead of exhaling normally, let out a laugh. (The exercise is from a Laughter Yoga technique.) As Dr. Stair explains, “Laughing naturally relaxes the muscles, reduces stress, and increases endorphins.”

2. Color Yourself Happy

Coloring books are no longer just for kids. The latest adult versions (like this Color Me Calm best-seller) offer grown-ups a chance to de-stress with the popular childhood pastime. Dr. Stair says that the activity can provide a positive distraction, allowing you to “take a break and engage in something fun and uplifting.” And no, you don’t need to color inside the lines—unless you want to!

3. Practice Compassion

The latest meditation trend? Compassion meditation, which “focuses on teaching individuals to develop altruistic emotions and behaviors towards others and self,” says Dr. Stair. She adds that studies have shown that compassion meditation “increases positive emotionality.”

4. Train Away Tension

“When we stress out, we tense up, literally,” says Dr. Stair. This often happens unconsciously, but you can train your body to unwind with progressive muscle relaxation, a technique that helps you release tension—both physical and emotional. The best part? You can do it pretty much anywhere, as long as you’re seated comfortably. Starting with the muscles in you shoulders, tense and hold five to 10 seconds, then release. Tense the upper back for five to 10 seconds, then release. Tense the right arm and hold for five to 10, then release. Then the left arm, and so on.

5. Strike a Pose

While you may not have time for a full yoga class during the hectic holiday season, you can practice a single pose in a pinch. Dr. Stair recommends Supta Baddha Konasana (aka Reclining Bound Angle), which is easy enough for non-yogis to try. Simply lie on your back with your arms at a 45-degree angle, palms facing up, and your legs bent at the knees, hanging open so that the bottoms of your feet touch. Not only is the pose restorative, but it also is a great hip and back opener for anyone who sits hunched at a desk all day.