We made it through Thanksgiving, the stress of traveling, hours of cooking delicious food, enjoyed time with our loved ones and hopefully you’ve been able to burn off a few of those high calorie meals. Now December is upon us!

We are all familiar with the tension that the holidays can bring. There’s always too much to do in too short a time: family gatherings, parties, kids’ recitals, gift buying, secret Santa. From crowded shopping malls to that critical dinner ingredient you forgot, running around causes a lot of stress. Traffic, snowstorms, other shoppers (did I mention traffic?) make driving a frightening endeavor, and the strain to get everything “just right” can make many of us too tightly wound to enjoy the events we plan, leaving us (and those around us) looking for stress relief.

As the holidays approach, it’s important that you take care of yourself to reduce your anxiety, stay healthy and be present for your family. Here are five healthy and natural ways you can find holiday stress relief:

  1. Herbal Teas:
    Swap out the coffee, which can actually increase your stress, for high quality, organic teas. Green tea, for example, contains theanine, a chemical that may have a calming effect, according to WebMD. Research also shows it can lower high blood pressure. In fact, just the ritual of slowly sipping tea can also be effective for stress relief, so add this to your list of “me time” activities. You can find organic teas at companies like Traditional Medicinals, who carry a complete line of teas including some just for relaxation.
  2. Epsom Salt Baths:
    The baths salts can not only relax you and sooth sore muscles but help keep your immune system strong. It was discovered in the 17th century in England. Magnesium sulfate is a mineral that many of us are lacking in, as levels have been decreasing over the last three to four decades around the world. The lack of this important nutrient in our bodies is due to a combination of issues, including over development of agricultural land that leaches essential minerals like magnesium and other trace elements from the soil, the overuse of prescription medications, the consumption of processed and fast foods, and more. All of these things take a toll, depleting our body of magnesium, which is one of the reasons Epsom salt can be an important part of improving one’s health. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory and exfoliant that can be used for treating muscle aches and dry skin. After a warm soak, I know I feel relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep. This is my favorite It’s sure to work for holiday stress relief – as long as you can find time for an indulgent bath! Check with your doctor to make sure you can add the magnesium.
  3. Yoga & Deep Breathing:
    Many years ago, I took yoga at the gym and discovered, to my surprise that I wasn’t breathing properly when I worked out! Yoga is great because it teaches you proper deep breathing, an excellent technique for calming nerves. If you can take a yoga course, give it a try. Meanwhile, when you feel upset, angry or very tense, try this technique to relax. Breathe in deeply, filling your belly, for 8 seconds. Then hold your breath for 8 seconds. Finally, exhale very slowly, again for 8 seconds. Keep repeating this until you get the hang of it (it takes a few rounds) and then go until you are calm.
  4. Eat Foods that Relieve Stress:
    It turns out that a healthy diet is not only good for your waistline; it can also help you to manage stress. Fish, like fresh tuna and salmon, are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, a natural stress remover. But if you are not a fish eater or live a vegan or vegetarian life, don’t worry – there are plenty of options for you too. Avocados, nuts, leafy greens, and asparagus have all been linked to stress reduction. If you eat fish, organic produce, and the occasional avocado in between holiday events, you’ll fare better when you do eat an indulgent holiday feast… stay tuned for a new post coming to help you reduce ‘over eating during the holidays.’
  5. Exercise:
    When we are overworked and overwhelmed, exercise can be one of the first activities we drop. That’s unfortunate, because working out actually helps with stress relief. Not only does it let you vent frustration, it also stretches your muscles so they don’t cramp up. Doing jumping jacks, jogging, or even the dreaded burpees actually relieves muscle tension and allows the body to move freely. In addition, the American Psychological Association has reported that exercise helps the brain cope with stress. Scientists believe that exercise not only releases chemicals to help the brain deal with stress but that it also trains the body to practice and improve the stress response.

I also wanted to add “get enough sleep” to this list, but I know that can be challenging this time of year. I will be adding an entire separate post about sleep soon.

Do your best to find time to relax every day and to get to bed on time when possible. In the meantime, incorporating these tips this holiday can provide much-needed holiday stress relief so you can enjoy this season with your loved ones.