holiday stress

5 Signs You’re Headed for a Holiday Breakdown

...and five ways to stop wigging out.

By Leah Zerbe


3. You’re Scrooge to your partner’s Bob Cratchit. If you’re snapping and snarling your way through the season, chances are your significant other is getting the brunt of your nastiness. Take a moment to evaluate what you’re doing with your life and how it’s affecting others, Gottlieb suggests, adding, “Is your heart open or closed? Do you need care or do you offer care?”

Try this: Bust out the mistletoe. Consider your significant other as a solution rather than a problem. Hugging and kissing can boost your levels of oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone. And sex lowers anxiety, stress, and blood pressure. That’s important, because December is the time of year when death by heart attack is the most likely.

4. Your mind feels thick as the new-fallen snow. In December, choice-overload is working overtime. Whether you can’t remember where you left your car keys, or you can’t shake an uneasy feeling that there’s something on your to-do list that has yet to be done, you need to take positive action to clear your mind.

Try this: Rise and pause. Take a few minutes each day to train your mind to stay in the moment. “Sit by yourself for 20 minutes every morning, eyes open or closed,” suggests Gottlieb. “Feel the temperature of the room, feel your mind racing, or not; allow whatever emotion you feel.” This practice, called mindfulness, can help you appreciate what you might otherwise miss. “It’s a wake up to our lives,” Gottlieb says. “I looked out the window this morning and saw frost. I thought, ‘How lucky am I that I can take a warm shower?’ That’s what happens when we stop and just breathe.”

5. You’re watching the stock market instead of hanging stockings. Money is a major holiday stressor, especially in the current economic climate. Financial hardships are not to be belittled, of course. But ultimately, money is not what makes us happy. In fact, researchers recently found that catching a happy mood from someone you don’t even know is three times more powerful for creating glee than gaining $5,000 in extra income.

Try this: “Make a contribution to the larger world,” suggests Gottlieb. Volunteering does that, but also think carefully about what truly brings you joy, and then do it everyday. Your good mood can spread three degrees, research shows—not only to people you know, but to your friends’ friends’ friends, too! Check out the remedy finder for more ways to ease stress

Published on: December 21, 2010
Updated on: December 9, 2013

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