12/13/2012 05:32 pm ET Updated Feb 12, 2013

Holistic Help for Holiday Stress

The holidays have arrived in full force, and while it's easy to get in the spirit of the season, it's just as easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. With so many of my resources (both time and money) going to holiday-related activities, it's hard to justify a trip to the spa or getting out for a long run to soothe my nerves. However, I know that my own well-being is important if I'm going to take care of those around me, so I've compiled a list of simple stress relievers that won't break the bank or take too much time out of the day.

Since a lavender soap helped me find relief from tension in my childhood, I've always looked to natural ingredients and pure, essential oils to help manage the stresses of everyday life. Derived from the aromatic essences of plants, trees, fruit, flowers, and herbs, essential oils have many healing qualities, and aromatherapy has long been used for not only stress relief, but also to help with relaxation and mood enhancement. Here are my essential oil-inspired tips for managing stress and staying balanced this busy season:

• Start the day with a clear mind with this simple shower tip. Fill a coffee mug with steaming hot water and add 10 drops of peppermint, 10 drops of lime and 10 drops of rosemary essential oils, and allow yourself to breath in the scents as you shower. This can help balance the senses, and allow you to focus as you start your day.

• Derived from the Latin word "lavare" meaning "to wash," lavender has been used for centuries in baths to purify the spirit and perfume the body. Today, lavender is thought by some to offer calming and soothing effects when inhaled, so add a few drops of lavender essential oil to an eye pillow, sachet, washcloth -- or even a simple tissue -- then breathe in whenever you want to benefit from the soothing scent.

• Make your own spray bottles filled with essential oils of your choice, and spray them on your pillow before bed, or keep in your purse, or in the car for the inevitable holiday traffic. Fill an aluminum spray bottle nearly to the top with water, and then add 20-25 drops of your favorite oil. You can also mix two to three of your favorite oils for a more complex blend. Shake the bottle well before each spritz to get the full sensory effect. Store the spray bottle away from direct sunlight to prevent oxidation of the oils.

• Most people know about chamomile tea for inciting a better night's sleep, but just breathing in the aromatherapy benefits of the oil may also bring about a more restful slumber. A study published in the journal Sleep in 1999 showed that a hot bath before bed helped people fall asleep, so why not add a few drops of chamomile oil to your evening soak?[1] If you don't have any essential oils, but you do have a favorite relaxing herbal tea just add three to four tea bags to the bath and make your own "tub tea."

What are your top tips for managing stress this season?


[1] Dorsey, Cynthia M., et al. "Core Body Temperature And Sleep Of Older Female Insomniacs Before And After Passive Body Heating." Sleep, Vol. 22, No. 7, 1999.

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