Originally published in Massage Bodywork magazine, October/November 2000.
Copyright since 2000. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.


Here "it" comes -- holiday stress. As families negotiate where to spend Thanksgiving, and millions of us are making the empty promise to ourselves to start early on holiday shopping, the anxiety begins to build. And it only gets crazier from here. Choir practice for the kids, family gatherings at every turn, office parties, treks to the mall, baking...you know where this is headed. So what can you do about it? You may not be able to control the chaos of the season, but there are some steps to make sure you survive it unscathed.

1.Take time for yourself. YES, get a massage. Soak in a mineral bath. Listen to the silence of a snowfall. Even if there seems no possible moment you can claim as your own, close your eyes, breathe deep from your belly several times, exhaling the air loudly from your mouth. Do this whenever you need a "moment."

2. Utilize catalog/online shopping. Don't fight the crowds. From the convenience of your home or during an office lunch hour, catalog and online shopping can eliminate the headache of holiday stress tenfold.

3. Eat right. Some of the best goodies come out this time of year. While you shouldn't deny yourself the opportunity to have a piece of grandma's pumpkin pie, don't overdo it. Remember to eat plenty of vegies and fruits to help stave off the winter's bombardment of colds.

4. Give yourself the advantage. Consumption of alcohol, nicotine, drugs and caffeine elicit the body's stress reaction. Remember moderation; you'll be happier and calmer in the long run.

5. Don't skimp on the exercise...but allow yourself to be excused from the routine when need be. Exercise helps melt the stress away and can provide that moment of clarity in a hectic day.

6. Don't try to be Martha Stewart. It's easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holidays with new decorating ideas, fancy dinners and the whim to make all your gifts this year. Be realistic and honest with yourself. Don't set yourself up for failure. Hire a caterer. Have friends help by having a craft day. Forgo making the gift wreath and give a gift you'll know they'll appreciate -- a massage.

7. Remember the spirit. When it's all said and done, no one will remember that the turkey was a little dry, that the sweater didn't fit, or that you were a few minutes late for rehearsal. What do they remember? The precious moments with family and friends.