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Quick Relief for Holiday Stress

Simple strategies for bringing down anxiety levels in a hurry.

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Listening to music on an MP3 player during holiday shopping can help reduce anxiety in overcrowded stores.

Whether you need to fulfill the wishes of each person on your gift list or find the time to decorate your home, the festive yuletide season can be stressful. In fact, a survey by the American Psychological Association showed that that 61 percent of Americans listed lack of money as the top cause of holiday stress, followed by the pressures of gift giving and a lack of time.

“Listen to your favorite relaxation music on your iPod as you shop. It can help reduce anxiety in overcrowded shops. Reserve time to relax or meditate at peak times of stress.”

— Michelle Walters-Edwards, Marymount University

“The holidays can cause a lot of stress and anxiety,” Michelle Walters-Edwards, Ph.D., department chair and associate professor of health and human performance at Marymount University in Arlington.

Indulging in excess food or alcohol is a stress-relieving strategy for some, say experts, but instead, Walters-Edwards suggests, “Try to remain on track … by designating time to relax and unwind.”

Walters-Edwards and other experts offer suggestions for getting rid of stress in a hurry.

Turn on the tunes. “Play your favorite music all day,” said Linda Berg-Cross, Ph.D., a Potomac, Md., resident. “Have dancing breaks with whoever is in the room with you – ‘Gangnam Style’ or otherwise.”

“Listen to your favorite relaxation music on your iPod as you shop,” Walters-Edwards added. “It can help reduce anxiety in overcrowded shops. Reserve time to relax or meditate at peak times of stress. Find a quiet location away from the holiday rush to calm yourself and relax those over-shopped muscles.”

Pound the pavement. “Going for a run outside may be a good solution,” said Joel Martin, Ph.D. an assistant professor of kinesiology at George Mason University in Fairfax. “It does not require any equipment and allows you to escape the stress at your home for a bit. Plus you get some fresh air.”

Berg-Cross agrees that getting outside can reduce tension. “Try to learn something new about each guest or family member sharing the holiday with you with one-on-one walks or talks,” she said.

Walters-Edwards underscores the importance of exercise and finding creative way to incorporate it into one’s schedule, especially during the holidays: “Exercise is a proven way to reduce tension and stress in the body as well as prevent the onset of other adverse health issues,” she said. “There are many apps available to download for exercise videos that you can take on the go [and] meditation timers to remind you to step out of the chaos and take time to unwind.”

And finally, say experts, gratitude can relieve stress. “Go to bed thinking of what you are grateful for during the day, no matter how stressed you are walking into the bedroom,” said Berg.