Most of us spend our days bouncing from obligation to obligation without taking time for ourselves. Though the holidays are meant to be a joyful season, this is especially true at the end of the year, with deadlines, performance reviews, holiday parties, and personal pressures leaving us feeling more stressed than celebratory. In fact, nearly half of workers rank December as the most stressful month of the year.
You can’t just skip ahead to next year—and you deserve to enjoy the season’s celebrations. The key to beating the “festive fizzle out” is to stay resilient, and these six tips will help you do just that.
- Make the Most of Your Commute
With the rise of smartphones, there are plenty of ways to pass the time—but not all diversions are created equal. In fact, listening to just three minutes of negative news increases your chance of having a bad day by 27 percent.
Instead, use your time in transit to relax and unwind. Make a point to explore different radio stations and actively listen to some new music, listen to (or read, depending on whose eyes are on the road) an uplifting book, or download an inspiring podcast. Whether you’re on your way into the office or headed home for the day, you’ll arrive at your destination with a smile on your face.
- Stretch Your Body
Are you reading this with your jaw clenched or your shoulders hunched? Try to catch yourself when you fall into a tight, stressed posture and take a moment to adjust.
Here’s a stretch you can do either sitting or standing: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, or, if you’re sitting, sit with your feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart. Reach your arms straight overhead and interlace your fingers, palms facing up. While straightening your elbows, try to get your arms as close to your ears as possible. Raise your arms up as you press your shoulders down. Slowly breathe in and out as you stretch your upper body. Hold for a few counts, then release—and repeat when necessary.
- Take a Walk
Walking is a scientifically-proven mood booster: It triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s “feel good” hormones. Take some time each day to clear your head with a morning stroll, a brief escape from the office at lunch, or an evening walk. Depending on where you live, you could multitask by taking in a little nature…or doing some holiday shopping. It all counts—one study found that just 12 minutes of walking led to an increase in cheerfulness, attentiveness, and self-confidence.
- Spread Good Cheer
Our brains are wired towards negative thinking—but we can train our mind to be more positive by mindfully choosing to focus on our happier thoughts. Challenge yourself to come up with at least one positive story about your day to share with your partner, roommates, or family at dinner. Sharing joy with others leads to a heightened sense of well-being, increased overall life satisfaction, and even a boost in energy.
- Decorate Your Desk
The benefits of being in nature are well-documented. So why not bring a bit of the outdoors inside? Adding a lavender plant, a vase of roses, or fragrant lilies to your workspace can promote feelings of relaxation and well-being.
There are also lots of creative ways to seasonally decorate your workspace. Hang some paper snowflakes, line the top of your cubicle with garland, or put out candy or baked goods (and be prepared for lots of drop-bys). The idea is to make it fun—after all, stress and laughter are incompatible.
- Breathe Deep
Just one deep breath can slow your heart rate, improve your blood pressure, and help cultivate peace of mind. Try it now: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Hold the inhale for a moment, then breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more comfortable). Do this a few times to bring on the body’s “relaxation response” and return to your day feeling calm and in control.
By practicing these simple tips, you can build up your resilience—and make the happiest but busiest time of year more peaceful and purposeful.
Over the last 10 years, Janet Ungless has developed a comprehensive expertise in health and well-being as a writer and editor. With a particular focus on sleep, meditation, and wellness, Janet has worked with a host of digital platforms to help consumers live healthier, happier lives. Find her on Twitter @jungless.