Retail therapy doesn't have quite the same calming effect during the holiday season when you're fighting your way through a crowd to snag a must-have iPad or wrestling for that last honey-glazed ham. But there are plenty of other super-quick ways to relax, right here, right now. Lower your shoulders, take a deep breath and let us help you rediscover the most wonderful time of the year.
1. Crunch your way to calm. Munching crisp foods is the oral equivalent of squeezing a stress ball. (Chewing releases built-up pressure.) But that doesn't give you a free pass to chomp on candy canes all day. Snack on jicama slices, a few roasted nuts, celery sticks, baby carrots or an apple instead.
2. Distract yourself. If constant worries over your tween's wish list and the awkward company party are cycling through your head, a mental distraction, like solving a puzzle, can derail the pressure-pumping train of thought. One study found playing a brainteaser video game could improve your mood and heart rhythms. Crossword puzzles, word searches and sudoku work just as well to counteract the stress response.
3. Tidy up. When you have so much happening, ordinary chores like sweeping or folding laundry can give you a much-needed sense of calm. "By narrowing your focus to completing simple tasks, you force whatever was overwhelming you to recede into the background," says Jay Winner, M.D., author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life. So move washing dishes to the top of your to-do list and eliminate some tension.
4. Cry it out. Weeping makes you feel better by releasing tears, which contain large amounts of stress-related chemicals. If you can't just turn on the waterworks, rent a tearjerker and blame your blubbering on The Notebook.