peppermint bark

Does the holiday hassle have you reaching for another glass of wine, smearing chocolate on your celery or muttering a mantra through clenched teeth? The season of Santa doesn’t have to be a painful – try these fun holiday stress busters that are guaranteed to give you greater perspective, a moment of peace or a belly full of laughs.

Carole Your Head Off. One of the most powerful mood-changers on earth is music, and when you add your voice to the mix, it’s a steam valve for pent-up emotions that need to be released. Some people punch a bag; others sing “Oh Holy Night” at the top of their lungs in the shower (this stress reliever works best when friends and family aren’t in earshot – for their sakes). Christmas carols are always either silly or serious, so put your heart, gestures and facial expressions into your original rendition. Before you know it, you’ll be cracking up just like Frosty the Snowman on a sunny morning.

Draw a Cartoon – of Yourself! Do the holidays have you feeling like a subhuman stress monster that eats sugar cookies all day, swigs on cough syrup like it’s cognac and has ribbon wrapped around her brain a bit too tight? Draw it! Grab a pen and paper and put to life all the crazy emotions you are feeling with images – and stick figures are just fine! Put your masterpiece on your fridge or throw it into the fireplace and burn it!

Have a Silent Night. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, before the afternoon turns into evening, announce a “Silent Night” in your home once the sun has set. Turn off all phones, all computers, all TVs, radios, video games and anything else that makes noise and has an “off” switch. Give the dog a bone and let children know that a hushed evening awaits: no yelling or screaming will be tolerated, and whispering is preferred. Now sit back, relax, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine and a book – and remember what life was like before being plugged in was your nightly mode of operation. Email can wait.

Craft a Silly Snowman. Stuck at home or work when you’d rather be slipping away in the snow? Distract yourself with a creativity break and make a snowman out of tissues and tape. Extra points for using office supplies like paperclips, pushpins and post-its to make your snowman’s features, and feel free to stage a competition between co-workers if everyone needs a fun pick-me-up.

Gaze Upon a Midnight Clear. Even if you live in the thick of the city, crisp winter nights often make for grand stargazing. When you need an immediate stress break, wrap up in a warm blanket and head out into the night by yourself to gaze up at the stars. There’s nothing like the incredible scope of the universe to remind you how little all your problems are, and how precious every single moment is. Breathe deep, feeling the cold air flow into your lungs and reinvigorate your body; remember that life is short and will be gone in the blink of an eye. Return inside more centered, calm and with a new sparkle in your eye.

Cook Peppermint Bark. Peppermint bark is fun and easy to make, and someone is going to have to crush all that peppermint with a rolling pin or hammer – smash smash smash!!! Simply melt your favorite chocolate in a double boiler; dark is healthiest. Add 1 cup of crushed candy canes (smash them in a bag for easy cleanup) for each 2 pounds of chocolate, along with a teaspoon of peppermint flavoring. Pour onto a baking sheet covered with wax paper, chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator and then break into smaller pieces and enjoy! Alternative: Use hazelnut flavoring and roasted nuts instead of peppermint – the nuts will also need to be smashed to bits!

image: imallergic