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Health & Balance

12 Ways to Destress Amidst Holiday Madness

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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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Take a mistletoe moment Physical affection has been shown to increase your body's levels of oxytocin and dopamine, hormones that reduce stress, so grab your honey and start smooching. Even if you're not feeling frisky, try cuddling for a while; simply touching hands can make the stress hormone cortisol melt away. "When we have strong relationships, we are buffered against the effects of stress," says Kory Floyd, PhD, professor of health and family communication at Arizona State University. "It doesn't mean we don’t have stress, but we tend not to overreact."

Create your own calm Decide on one word that describes the holiday season you want to have this year; it could be Peace, Joy, Love, Family or Serenity. Write it on an index card and tape it to your bathroom mirror. When things get hectic, a glance at your guiding word will remind you of what you really want—and make it easier to cut loose anything that’s distracting you from your goal.

Say it ain't so Yes, you want your holidays to be perfect, but no matter how much you plan (and worry), something will go wrong. Meals get burned, kids make messes, relatives argue, gifts miss the mark. Instead of freaking out, repeat something that reminds you that imperfection is OK, like It is what it is or Life happens. "A moment of self-talk helps us turn off the spigot of thoughts that constantly tell us we're not doing things right," explains Schumann. "It reminds us that the holidays aren’t about being perfect. It's a time to laugh, be with family and share memories."

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