4 ways to bust holiday stress — that work in 2 minutes or less


Women without stress relaxing by a fire at the holidays.

By Sherri Young, RN, Nurse-Educator

The holiday season — with all its stresses — is just around the corner. And so are all the people waiting to bury you with good advice about how to cope with holiday stress. This sometimes makes you even more stressed because it means you’re supposed to also be cheerful and relaxed. And you don’t have time to do an hour of calming tai chi or get a massage. There’s too much to get done!

When finding time for yourself seems impossible, these quick and easy steps can have a significant impact on your stress levels.

1. Press the Hoku spot.

This key pressure point between your thumb and index finger helps reduce anxiety and stress. All you do is pinch and apply pressure on either hand, or both in sequence, while breathing deeply.

woman pressing Hoku spot for stress relief

Stuck in traffic or in a line at the bank? Pinch the Hoku spot while you wait.

2. Practice Kundalini nostril breathing.

Here’s a tip if you don’t have time to for a yoga class. One of the reasons yoga is so good for stress relief is its emphasis on breathing deeply and evenly. A technique that is particularly effective is kundalini nostril breathing. Hold your right nostril closed with your finger and breathe deeply and slowly through the left nostril for several minutes. Longer, if you’re feeling very tense.

This maneuver may take more practice than the Hoku spot. But it will help you balance out the classic stress response of the sympathetic nervous system. Which, strange but true, has been proven to be activated by breathing through the right nostril. Its benefits on your blood pressure are almost immediate, according to the research. And unlike that glass of wine to calm down, you can do it over and over.

3. Surround yourself with citrus scent.

There’s scientific evidence that the scent of citrus fruits produces changes in neurotransmitters to improve mood. You can easily get these benefits by using lemons or oranges in your cooking or adding a lemon or lime wedge to your water. You can also try essential oils of lemon, orange, or grapefruit to get this effect through aromatherapy.

The scent of citrus is scientifically proven to improve mood.

4. Start your day with a minute of joy.

For many of us, the holidays are stressful in part because everyone around you seems to insist on being “up” — cheerful, social, celebrating. But research has shown that emotional states tend to reinforce themselves. So if you’re in a negative mood, you tend to brood on that fact and feel even worse. Fortunately, the reverse is also true!

If you find yourself awash in negative emotions — time pressure, irritability, bad memories, you name it — take a page from cognitive behavioral therapy practice. You can consciously work to change your emotional state. Here’s how.

Find something that you associate with happiness and positive feelings. And then make a point of giving a few minutes each morning to contemplating that thing. Whether it’s a happy memory, something good that happened to you recently, or even cute baby animal videos on the internet, run with it! Those minutes each morning are set aside for you to embrace the things that bring you joy — and set yourself on a positive spin at the start of each day. You can do it at night, too, if you find yourself staying awake from worry, stress or sadness.


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Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Graham JE, Malarkey WB, et al. Olfactory influences on mood and autonomic, endocrine, and immune function. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2008 Apr; 33(3): 328–339. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2007.11.015

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Matsumoto T, Kimura T, Hayashi T. Aromatic effects of a Japanese citrus fruit—yuzu (Citrus junos Sieb. ex Tanaka)—on psychoemotional states and autonomic nervous system activity during the menstrual cycle: a single-blind randomized controlled crossover study. BioPsychoSocial Medicine 2016;10:11 https://doi.org/10.1186/s13030-016-0063-7

WebMD. Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat Depression? Available at https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-for-depression#1.

Last updated on 11/08/2019