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8 Ways to Actually Relax Over the Holidays

It's almost that time of year again. You know, the most wonderful time of year. Or, if you're like me, the time when you feel like you run a marathon for months and never, ever stop.

During the holiday season, it's especially important to find a way to take a breather. After all, you want to remember these days as some of the best, right? And what better way to do that than to cut the crazy, and find a way to really relax and enjoy yourself?

1. Take a breath

No, you don't have to take up meditation. But even stopping for two or three breaths when you start to feel stressed can help you recenter. I know someone who goes so far as to set alarms on her exercise tracker every two or three hours. When her wrist buzzes, she finds a place where she can take a few deep breaths. She swears it makes her healthier and happier.

2. Plan fewer activities

There are a million things to do over the holiday season. If you try to do them all, though, you'll discover that they stop being fun and become stressful instead. So pick a few things, maybe the ones you're most excited about or the ones you think your family will love, and do only those. If you want to do something more, there's always next year. Limiting the number of things you commit to will reduce your stress.

3. Schedule intimate gatherings

When you really want to talk to someone, there's no better way to achieve that than to plan a small, intimate holiday get-together, rather than a huge bustling party. Have a few interesting people over, offer some simple refreshments, and really get to know the people in your life. It's so much less stressful than planning a huge party! You can even do this several times, with different people, if you have a lot of friends you'd like to entertain this season.

4. Play music

Whether you love traditional holiday music or not, it's likely you can find something that is both in the holiday spirit and that reduces your stress levels. You may not want to keep it on all the time, but finding a way to incorporate holiday music into your daily life should not only get you a little more into the holiday spirit, but can also help you feel more relaxed and excited about the season.

5. Shop early

Buying your holiday gifts late can be incredibly stressful. The lines are longer, there are more people to contend with, and popular gifts can be harder to find. While it takes a bit of planning and some storage space, shopping early helps you avoid all of these hectic moments. Even if you love the rush of last-minute holiday gift-buying, you can plan your lists now and buy some items that might be impossible to find later.

6. Take some time off

Depending on your job, taking time off right around the holidays can be almost impossible. But if you have the vacation days, it's worth taking a few sometime during the season to make time to chill. If nothing else, use a couple of vacation days just to get stuff done. That way, you don't have to fit everything in around work and the rest of your hectic holiday schedule.

7. Make time to exercise

When you're running around like crazy, fitting in exercise can feel like just one more difficult thing you have to do. Since exercise reduces stress, though, it may be one of the most important things that you do this holiday season. You don't have to find time for a killer gym workout, either. A 20-30 minute walk, even on a treadmill, will do you good. Make exercise a habit during the holidays, and beat some of the stress that comes with the season.

8. Get outside

Unfortunately, one of the most stressful times of the year goes hand in hand with one of the darkest times of the year. This is important because time spent out in natural light helps the body produce vitamin D, which is key to helping us deal with stress. Whenever possible, spend a few minutes each day outside. If you can't stand the cold, take some vitamin D supplements so your body has what it needs to be able to battle stress

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