Dozens of gifts to wrap, family everywhere you go, and a list of things-to-do growing by the minute. You can actually keep your stress levels to a minimum by following these stress busters.

More than 20 percent of the American population complain of high stress levels whenever the holidays come which aren’t exactly good for your mind and body.

According to Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and Psychology Today’s blogger, the body is actually built to have short bursts of stress before going back to its normal levels. If the stress level remains high for a long time, the body will keep on producing cortisol which is a hormone that causes stress.

It would be great if you can manage to get an hour long massage but with the holiday season, no one can actually find the time. Why not try these simple exercises that can help calm you down and even make you feel better fast?

1. Laugh.
Many experts concur that finding a reason to laugh can definitely get rid of stress. This doesn’t mean just chuckling every time you feel stress but actually laughing with mirth. One study showed that Midwestern patients who underwent “laughter therapy” showed lower stress levels. When you laugh, you’re actually releasing endorphins, that help soothes any tension and stress. Try keeping a playlist of music and even funny videos that get you cracking up and turn to it the moment that you feel you’re too stressed out.

2. Counting breaths.
Breathing is actually one of the best ways to get rid of stress but not just any breathing. It has to be cleansing breaths. Greenstein suggests that you place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen then breath. If the hand that you placed on your chest starts to rise, it means that you’re shallowly breathing. Practice this exercise by pushing down the hand that you’ve placed over your abdomen and start taking slow and deliberate breaths. You should start cleansing breaths once you feel that you’re having a bad moment.

3. Turn to your favourite book.
Another tactic to putting a halt to your stress is to skim a good book. If you’ll be meeting with stressful people make sure that you read something that will uplift you. It is best that you do this exercise in the morning and make sure that you have a couple of magazines that you can browse through in the middle of your crazy day.

4. Go for a snack break.
Scientists have discovered that chewing gum, dark chocolate, as well as roasted pumpkin seeds can do wonders to your stress levels. However, just like with any scientific-backed study, you’re the only one who will truly know what can make you feel good.

5. Brew tea.
The key to unwinding is to brew and drink a cup of tea. There are studies that show that those who drink tea were able to lower their stress levels faster compared to those who don’t. What’s more, those who drank black tea were found to have lower cortisol levels even when they participated in events that were stressful. Go for green tea if you’re not fond of black as it can help increase your metabolism. According to the author who penned 5 Minutes to Stress Relief, Lauren Miller, the idea behind any task to relieve stress is to get you out of the brain muck and help give your brain a break. Even if your own tea choice isn’t backed scientifically, the simple act of brewing and drinking can help take your mind off the tension in the family.

6. Hugs.
In one study, it showed that those who had warm contact or were hugging actually had lower heart rate and blood pressure as opposed to those who belonged to the control group that doesn’t have any contact. The benefits gained from hugging are linked to the hormone oxytocin or the bonding hormone which has been found to reduce cortisol levels and blood pressure. So why don’t you hug your family every time you have the chance? Miller further stated that humans have two basic needs and these are to feel connected and safe. A person’s entire perspective shifts when these two needs are met.

7. Find your center.
Go further with your breathing by practicing zen through “mindful meditation” which can help lower your stress levels and at the same time, give you a different perspective to difficult situations. You definitely need to find time to meditate even if it is not your thing since it can help relieve stress. Go ahead and hide in the bathroom or in your bedroom to have some quiet time alone. Check out headspace app to get ideas on what to focus on.

8. Go outside.
A study at the University of Edinburgh in 2011 showed that those who lived in areas that have plenty of green space and were often going out of their offices or homes reduced cortisol levels. Make the most out of your favourite scent in winter and take a stroll in the forest or park to lower your stress levels. According to Sood, shorter days are equal to less sunlight which can cause stress to some people. As soon as it gets darker, the body tends to produce melatonin, which is a type of sleep hormone that may cause you to feel tired and sluggish. Combine this with a full house and a full plate and you will definitely feel more overwhelmed than you can imagine. Go outside as often as you can and just soak up the sun.

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