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10 Ways to De-stress the holidays

The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful. With family time and festive holiday parties, also comes shopping in crowded department stores, planning epic dinners and completing work deadlines before the New Year. But don’t wait until January to get your head screwed on straight again. Take just ten minutes out of your day to try these simple stress reducers — we guarantee you’ll feel much better.

1. Take a Walk The easiest way to beat stress is to walk away from the immediate source. Even if you only have five minutes to spare, get up and take a quick stroll to gather your thoughts, get your blood flowing and release mood-boosting endorphins.

2. Meditate Just five minutes of meditating will lower your heart rate and blood pressure and relax your muscles. To get started, find a quiet place to sit and try to clear your mind of any thoughts. Then focus on one thing — your breathing, a picture in your head or repeating a mantra. Still having trouble? Follow an app, like iMindfulness, to keep you on track.

3. Pour Some Tea Decaffeinated green tea is soothing because it contains theanine, an amindo acid that promotes relaxation. Avoid caffeinated versions because they can worsen stress.

4. Take Deep Breaths Only have one minute? Stop whatever you’re doing, close your eyes and focus on your breath as it goes in and out.

5. Make a To-Do List Running down a long list of deadlines in your head is the worst thing you can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Instead, choose the three most important tasks and jot them down. Work on one at a time and check them off as you go. If you have time leftover, plop down a few more and keep going.

6. Pick Up a Trashy Novel Ok, well it doesn’t have to be trashy. Reading any type of fiction will take your mind away from the present and essentially allow you to enter a new world. Sometimes, a little distraction is all you need.

7. Get in Some Pet Time A study done by the University of Buffalo found that subjects who spent time with a cat or dog during times of high stress (the subjects were stockbrokers, go figure), their blood pressure was lowered. So grab your pet and get in some quick cuddle time. Don’t have a furry friend of your own? Take a trip to the local shelter.

8. Light a Lavender Candle Light a lavender candle right before bed to help relax and clear your mind. A study by researchers at the University of Miami followed brain activity with an EEG machine, finding that those who were subjected to lavender aromatherapy showed brainwaves associated with drowsiness. The subjects also felt less depressed and had a mood boost.

9. Eat Chocolate When you’re stressed you have low serotonin, a brain chemical that controls calmness. Sweet and starchy foods, such as chocolate, pretzels and ice cream, actually boost serotonin levels which in turn relaxes the body. A trial published in the Journal of Proteome Research found that eating an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks helps to reduce levels of stress hormones.

10. Listen to Music A 2010 study by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that subjects who listened to their favorite music had better circulation as a result. Their blood vessels actually opened wider — slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, relaxing the muscles and creating an overall feeling of relaxation. Interesting word of advice: no matter how much you love a song, don’t put it on repeat. The doctors claimed that listening to the same song over and over will decrease the effects.

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