If you’re barraged with a constant storm of holiday demands, like formal parties, gift exchanges, traveling, family get-togethers and other events, this time of year can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Even though these “fun” events are meant to bring people together, you still need to make time for yourself and allow your mind to unwind. Since nobody deserves to suffer through the holidays, we’ve rounded up some affordable (and free) activities that can help you find your calm and de-stress throughout the season.
1. Go for a Bike Ride, Walk or Run Outside
The idea here is to force yourself offline and get some exercise while you’re at it. A little bit of fresh air can leave you in better spirits, especially during a time of year when many people don’t spend much time outside. Take the time to appreciate all the sights, smells, sounds and sensations of being outside and in the moment. If you’re in colder weather, going outside can still benefit you, but make sure you’re well prepared for the cool temperatures. Cold weather accessories like a scarf, hat, gloves and hand warmers can help you stay cozy.
2. Treat Your (Friend’s) Dog to a Park
Your loyal and friendly pup needs a treat from time to time, too! Not only will you (both) get some fresh air, but you’ll have the time to mentally slow down and be with your thoughts. A recent study suggests that as little as 10 minutes of interaction with a dog (or cat) can considerably reduce cortisol, a naturally occurring stress hormone.1 If you don’t have a dog, ask a close friend or family member to take their dog for a walk! As a bonus, you’ll help that person cross a task off their likely busy agenda.
3. Make a Clothing Donation
Go through your closet and purge anything that doesn’t fit, as well as any items that you haven’t worn in a year. The act of decluttering is liberating (and totally free), and you’ll have more closet room to work with. Items like gently worn winter coats take up a lot of space, but they’re greatly appreciated by those in need during this time of year.
4. Stick to a Routine
If you’re stressed out, the simple act of following a routine can help calm and center you. Whether that means reading for 30 minutes before bed, going to a morning gym class, walking the dog or something else entirely, you can look forward to a constant, always-dependable routine activity amidst a busy, event-filled season.
5. Dine Out Alone
Admittedly, you need to be comfortable being in a public space alone to enjoy this suggestion, but the sensory-filled experience itself can change your mind. When you dine out in solitude, you can truly savor the experience of a meal that you don’t have to cook yourself without the obligation of making small talk with your dining companion. If you think you’ll need something to do, head to a restaurant with live music or bring a book to read — just avoid the temptation of looking at your phone.
6. Get An At-Home Spa Experience
Don’t pull any punches for this one — bust out your most luxurious sheet masks, bath bombs, hair masks, scented candles, body scrubs and polishes for a cozy night in. Hop in the shower or take a long, hot bath along with your favorite relaxing tunes.
7. Take Control of Your Finances
If you’ve neglected your budget, or don’t have one at all, do yourself a favor and correct that now. It may not be as fun as playing with a dog or pampering yourself, but an easy-to-use template won’t take long to fill out and maintain in the future. Following a budget can help you develop a positive snowball effect that leads to better decisions and outcomes down the line. While this is a long-term effort, living within your means on a budget can truly help you achieve financial independence and security.
Baking doesn’t require the intensive introspective effort that meditation does, but wholly focusing on a task can actually help you achieve the same effects. Find a recipe you love or want to try and devote an afternoon to perfecting your craft. It’s even sweeter when you share the product of your hard work!
9. Purge Your Inbox
You know those old sales emails taking up your inbox capacity? Delete them. Those discouraging job rejections (older than a year old)? You don’t need to hang on to them. Do what you need to reach inbox zero. While this task might not have the same immediate calming effects as a run outside in the fresh air, the benefits you’ll reap, like increased productivity and an easier morning routine are worth the effort.
Each morning, before you check your email, commute to work or start your day, open your journal and jot down your thoughts, feelings, hopes and anxieties. Taking the time to journal is shown to have a number of psychological benefits. It can help you identify the source of positive or negative feelings, resolve problems or disagreements, reduce stresses and more.2 Writing in a handsome, leather-bound notebook is certainly not required, but it can encourage you to journal more often!
1Science Daily. (July 15, 2019). Stress reduction benefits from petting dogs, cats. Retrieved November 12, 2019, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190715114302.htm
2Purcell, M. (October 8, 2018). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Retrieved November 12, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/