Reindeer Dog

We’re in the thick of the holiday season—shopping ‘til we drop, menu planning ‘round the clock, booking flights to visit the family, and gearing up for to-be New Year’s resolutions. If you’re feeling like a toy top perpetually spinning from everything you’re trying to squeeze in, you could probably use a little unwinding. Here are five easy tips for staying sane and stress-free this holiday season.

1. Do daily stretches. Start and end your day with just five to 10 minutes of simple stretches and you’ll feel the benefits immediately. Loosening your muscles and clearing your mind helps you to start fresh each morning, and it allows you to decompress into your evening routine. Try the Sun Salutation for a yoga stretch that’s just as beneficial for beginners as it is for experts.

2. Take weekly baths. A good bath soak can do wonders for a stressed out body or mind. While a steamy bath of hot water alone will usually do the trick, it’s easy to prepare yourself a spectacular spa session. Add a few handfuls of Dead Sea or Epsom salts to your bath to help relieve sore muscles and soften the skin. For aromatherapy benefits, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils. And if you simply want something bubbly and luxurious, try this nice tutorial on MNN.com for making your own eco bubble bath solution.

3. Infuse with aromatherapy/candles. You can’t underestimate the power of a good scent to clear your mind and come into a more peaceful mood. Essential oils like peppermint or orange may be uplifting to inhale, while others like lavender or rose may be soothing. Essential oil diffusers can be found at most household goods stores nowadays, and they allow you to fill your house with soothing aromas. Candles provide even more stress-relieving power by letting you really create the atmosphere of a glowing retreat. Dim the lights after a long day, light a few candles, and take time for yourself to really let it all go.

4. Sip on hot drinks. Coffee may be your go-to potable for the morning rush, but when when it’s time to unravel in the evening you need something relaxing. It’s the holidays after all, and perhaps there is no better seasonal drink than hot cocoa to make a person feel all tingly and cozy inside. Add a drop of peppermint essential oil to your cocoa for a flavor boost that can also be tummy-soothing. If chocolate isn’t your thing, perhaps hot apple cider will be your cup of calmness.  (Read on for a list of seasonal ingredients to add to your cider.) Whatever your drink, be sure to take your time sipping it—taking time is half the relaxation right there. Breathe in, breathe out, be calm.

5. Read a good book. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a good book, just any book! In 2009, researchers found that reading for just six minutes reduced stress levels by 68 percent, a larger reduction than that from having a cup of tea (54 percent) or taking a walk (42 percent). So whether curled up by a roaring fire or floating in your steamy bath, open up a book and let the day’s stressors roll away.

Image adapted from aussiegall