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12 Ways to Destress Amidst Holiday Madness

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10 Minutes

Focus on the vision Think about the three holiday traditions you love most, like lighting the Chanukah menorah or singing Christmas carols with your kids. Pencil those things in your calendar, and let go of the rest. "What stresses us out is that we don't take the time to say what we really want," says Linda Hedberg, a Minneapolis life coach who conducts workshops on making the holidays less stressful. "Women need to make plans based on their vision, and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t fall into that vision."

Speed-read Curling up with a good book can be the ultimate winter luxury, but if you don't have time for an extended tête-à-tête with a novel, try something short and sweet, like a few poems a day, or a couple of pages of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Better yet, sign up for DearReader.com, a service that e-mails you a daily excerpt of fiction, nonfiction, romance or other genre of your choice. You get to enjoy literary downtime without any pressure to read ahead.

Organize something It's not as crazy as it sounds, says Beverly Coggins, a professional organizer in Stow, Ohio, and author of the 1-2-3…Get Organized series. When life feels out of control, setting a silverware drawer in order or whipping the gift-wrap box into shape leaves you feeling like you’ve taken the reins again—and that can unload stress.

5 Minutes

Take a shortcut to joy Your regular schedule may have gone out the window when family dropped in, but that doesn't mean you have to abandon what you love. Just do a super-quick version of it. Turn your normal leisurely chat with your best friend into a quick morning check-in, or skip hanging out at Starbucks but grab a latte to go. "Figure out what gives you joy and commit to doing it," says Katrin Schumann, coauthor of Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too.

Throw open the curtains According to a recent University of Washington study, gazing out at the natural world lowers your heart rate, even when you have to deal with stress-inducing situations. To bring some serenity inside, decorate with natural finds. Ditch the plastic wreath in favor of a real one, or stack pinecones in a glass vase for a quick centerpiece.

Press here for peace Feeling flustered? Sneak into the bathroom during the festivities and try this quick acupressure move, called the Sea of Tranquility, to send a "calm down now" message to your brain. Find the small, slightly tender indentation in the center of your breastbone. With three fingertips, press down gently for two minutes, then gradually release the pressure. The acupressure not only helps you deepen your breathing, which relaxes you, but it naturally releases tension, says Hanley. "I love that it's called the Sea of Tranquility," she says. "It reminds you that you have this inner calm that you can access at any time."

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