Reduce Your Holiday Anxiety with These Stress-Busting Strategies

As we move into December, many of you are probably noticing how much stress people seem to be carrying around. From personal lives, to business, to politics, the world around us is becoming one stressed-out mess. The Season of Light is upon us and we all know that, while most of us love it, it is also very stressful. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to look at de-stressing tools so that we are not carrying quite as much anxiety into the holiday season, or just in our lives in general. You may look at many of these suggestions and think that you already know about them, but the question is, do you implement them? What we know and what we do are often two very different things.

As stress has a way of becoming all-encompassing, its effects are cumulative, meaning that just a night’s sleep or a weekend away will not erase its physical and emotional impact. When impacted by high levels of stress, everything eventually feels like a burden. It is important to sort through all of the aspects of your life and try to clearly identify the primary cause of your stress. It might have to do with your lifestyle, your job, or your spouse, or perhaps simply being subjected to the negativity of the media and the world at large.


1) Once you can identify the clearest cause of your anxiety, see if there is anything that can be done to reduce its impact. Even if you cannot immediately do something, develop a plan that will move you towards releasing yourself from stress. Having a plan will help you feel like you are doing something about it. A proactive focus will help you stop feeling victimized and give you a new direction.

2) Focus on all the good things in your life that give you a sense of relief, fun, and even joy. If you have said that there isn’t anything, then you need to dig a bit deeper.

We all have things that make us feel good, like walking in nature, being with our pets, or socializing with people who do not drain us. Having offsets or healthy escapes helps neutralize the negative hormones that are released when we experience a lot of stress.

While some may think that the use of alcohol, food, and/or recreational drugs is helpful, in the long run, it is not. These are only bandaid solutions that provide a temporary diversion and can cause long-term problems. When long-term stress is taking its toll, a more permanent solution is required.

3) How are you taking care of yourself during this stressful time? We know that the more stressed we become, the less likely we are to take care of our selves. So look at the very basics, like eating properly or sleeping your required amount. Exercise is also very important, and can be as simple as going for a walk around the block. Getting a massage can also help.

4) Talk or journal about it. Don’t burden your friends, as they have their own stresses to deal with. Mulling over your stress keeps it too close to the surface, causing more dismay. Work with someone who not only gives you some air time and help you to release any emotions building up in your life, but also helps you develop a plan to better alleviate your stressful experience.

5) Take time to breathe deeply – it is the best natural stress reducer. You can do it anywhere and at any time – at the office, in your car, or on the subway, you can take a deep breath.

The more stressed we are, the more shallow our breathing becomes. Deep inhaling and exhaling from the belly removes a lot of stress and toxins from our bodies.

6) Spiritual tools include deep breathing with your eyes closed, meditation, prayer, contemplation, affirmation, and visualization. A simple tool can be to close your eyes and imagine that you are in your favourite place, real or imagined, and allow yourself, for even 10 minutes, to enjoy the sense of serenity and peace.

We want to refocus our brains away from the stress cycle to one which calms us and gives us a sense of feeling refreshed and energized. The more regularly you do these things, the greater the results.

Sometimes, in order to help remove stress, we may need to make changes, and sometimes these are big changes. This may result in more stress at first, but it only lasts while you are attempting to make changes in your life. Remember that all change is stressful – even good change!

Most illnesses, including the leading causes of death, can be attributed to stress and lifestyle choices. The choices we make to help us deal with stress can have long-term, damaging, and often irreversible effects.

High blood pressure and elevated cholesterol are factors that lead to heart disease and stroke, and both are often the result of lifestyle choices.

You may already know all of this, but you need to make sure that you’re doing it! Even implementing a couple of the previously mentioned suggestions can give you that little extra support until the stressors in your life shift.

Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak are co-founders of the Transformational Arts College of Spiritual and Holistic Training. The College offers professional training programs in Spiritual Psychotherapy, Spiritual Director, Holistic Health, and Coaching. For more information or for a course calendar, call 416-484-0454 or 1-800-TAC-SELF, or visit To receive their monthly e-newsletter, email

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