Keep stress in check whether you're the host or a guest with these effective stress-busting tips.

holiday gathering Holidays and social gatherings can each be stressful. Put them together and the friction can be quite intense. But there's no reason to let get-togethers get the best of you. Here are some tips for keeping your cool so things don't heat up—inside OR outside the kitchen!

  • Be Realistic – Setting high expectations may leave you feeling disappointed and frustrated when things don't go as planned. Whether you host or attend a get-together, try to keep your expectations realistic so you don't add extra pressure on yourself or other guests.
  • Plan Ahead – To prevent last minute scrambling, plan your menu and make your shopping list well ahead of time. Do as much meal prep as you can before the actual day so you have time to handle any last minute emergencies.
  • Delegate – Are you a control freak? While you may think that doing it all yourself will ensure it gets done "right," you'll also be putting all the pressure on yourself. When you delegate a chore, no matter how small, it takes something off your own list. Start with delegating simple chores, such as taking out the trash or washing a dirty pan. You'll be happy you did!
  • Breathe – Stress causes you to breathe shallow and quickly. Deep breathing is the simplest thing you can do to relieve stress. It's also something you can do pretty much anywhere. When Aunt Ida asks why you didn't use her recipe for the casserole, go somewhere you can be alone and take some long, deep breaths until you start to calm down.
  • Laugh – Ever notice how much more relaxed you feel after watching a comedy? Laughing not only lets you forget your troubles in the moment, but it signals the brain to release endorphins that make you feel better. Laughter can stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles, as well as activate and relieve your stress response.
  • Watch Your Diet – Often the easiest thing to do when you're under stress is to reach for comfort food or alcohol. This is only a temporary fix though, and may leave you with a headache and/or stomachache the next morning. Instead, try chewing gum to release that stress.
  • Move – Exercise has some great stress-busting benefits. It pumps up your endorphins and reduces the negative effects of stress on the body. Think of exercise as "meditation in motion," helping you let go of the irritations in your life. Go for a run the morning of a big gathering or a walk after to let some of that stress go.
  • Learn to Say No – Just because you receive an invitation to a gathering, doesn't mean you have to accept it. If you have a full week ahead or just don't feel like going for another reason, politely decline. Offer to visit on another occasion when you're both available. This will help keep your stress in check without insulting the host.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 6, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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