By Angelica Catalano for YouBeauty.com
With all of those gifts to give and food to prep, you are the last thing you’re thinking about. But the secret to the holiday mindset? Clear your mind! Before you even think about your gluten-free guests or dodging your family’s inevitable life trajectory questions, here are 10 to-dos that will save your sanity all season long.
1. Say 'No' To Attending Or Hosting A Party
Say it with us: <em>no</em>. “To be happy we need to have a social life. However, there is a point of diminishing returns here. If we overextend ourselves and get involved with too many commitments, we risk feeling stressed and resentful toward others,” says YouBeauty Happiness Expert <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/authors/matthew-d-della-porta">Matthew Della Porta, Ph.D.</a> You don’t need that stress-induced zit to resurface, along with a family feud. So stop that ugly mess before it starts. What to do instead? “Think carefully about your top two or three social priorities for the holiday season and fulfill them. Beyond these engagements, don't be afraid to be choosy!” Della Porta says. “The holiday season is inherently stressful, so take advantage of opportunities to minimize this stress by keeping your social life simple and focused on those closest to you.” Don’t have to tell us twice!
2. Commit To Spa Time
The spa lounge can be jam-packed this time of year (even more stressful, hearing people gab about <em>their</em> holiday prep). Go when you can get some peace pre- or post-massage. Your best bet at most spas is Monday through Thursday between 11a.m. and 4p.m., according to William Myers, Spa Director at <a href="http://www.havensoho.com">Haven Spa</a> in New York City. (Request a much-needed lunch break and put it on your schedule so you don’t inadvertently accept a meeting request for that time.) If you can’t get away to splurge for an hour, ask your partner for a neck massage -- <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/mind/galleries/touch-for-health">it can reduce the stress hormone cortisol</a>. Come nighttime, take things into your own hands with a relaxing routine that rivals a spa. The goods: “Quality essential oils in the bath, exfoliating gloves or soap, candles and warm herbal neck wraps,” Myers suggests.
3. Fit In A Fitness Pose Each Day
You’ll ward off holiday blues and get your body ready to slip into your favorite dresses. Don’t know where to start? We have <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/body-fitness/yoga-pose-a-day">day-by-day yoga poses</a> that you can follow in real-time. Yoga lifts mood by increasing levels of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. (Low GABA levels are associated with depression and anxiety.) And <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/tags/ballet-body">these ballet poses</a> from Mary Helen Bowers will get you longer, leaner and have the poise to take on anything this season.
4. Write A Gratitude Note
Stuck on your Wish List? Stop and think of what you already have ... Your friends and family! Pick someone to write your thanks to. “Sending a gratitude letter gives you the benefit of feeling grateful while making someone else feel good and appreciated,” Dr. Della Porta says. Even if you don’t send it, just writing what you appreciate about the relationship is proven to boost mood. “Realistically, few of us are able to live like this all of the time. However, the holiday season is a great time to experiment with this philosophy,” Della Porta says. So send that letter, already!
Why detox when you can pretox? We’re talking about getting a jump start on getting your body fit before the parties roll around. Americans gain an average of one pound over the holidays (speaking of rolls ...). It can be a daunting task to try to lose that stubborn pound after the fact, so it’s better to be proactive about never adding it at all. But it’s not about limiting the quantity of food, but making you satisfied with the quality. Get step-by-step tips <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/body-fitness/pretox-not-detox-this-holiday">here</a> to have yourself a merry little pretox.
An unexpected way to treat yourself is by treating others. “It's tempting to think that we need to pamper ourselves to be happy (and sometimes this is a good idea),” Della Porta says. “However, as I've mentioned in <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/mind/columns/cloud-nine/true-love">one of my articles</a>, I believe that genuinely caring for others and putting their needs before yours yields a special kind of joy that is otherwise unattainable,” Della Porta says. In other words, showering yourself with fine-leather goods and cashmere slippers isn't the real recipe to a happy holiday. But charity work is! It's proven to make you happier. In fact, the more you do, the happier it makes you. Set aside one weekend to devote to your favorite charity. ‘Tis the season for giving!
7. Connect With Nature
If you live in a winter wonderland, don’t hibernate! Start a snowball fight or go sledding. Snow or not, just get out there. Connecting with nature is linked with vitality (the secret to looking younger!). Even a 15-minute walk induces positive emotions, such as enthusiasm and “aliveness.” Put down that energy drink, a walk will give you the push you to stay up till all hours.
Each day, set a timer on your phone and do nothing for that allotted time -- even if it’s just five minutes. A simple place to start is by sitting and focusing on your breath. Whatever your aim -- better sleep, more energy, a cheerier disposition -- meditation can help you get there. If you’re afraid you’ll snap at a certain someone at your next family gathering, hear this: Meditation can <a href="http://www.youbeauty.com/mind/research/meditation-kindness">make you kinder</a>.
How to Meditate At Work
For more on stress relief, click here.