Written by contributor Krissa Jeldy of More Than Mundane.

The holidays are here and for many of us that means lots of wonderful things: extra time with family, delicious food and goodies, and lots of fun gatherings. But the holidays can also mean more stress.

During the holidays we often have more obligations, and less time.

More shopping, cooking, planning, activities, and travel or having out of town visitors can quickly increase stress levels and make this special season not as enjoyable as it should be.

Stress has many negative health repercussions as well. Stress can affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. The tension from stress can cause headaches as well as neck, shoulder and back pain. Stress is also linked to high blood pressure, low fertility, skin problems, and sleep problems.

Of course, keeping things simple, limiting commitments, and having realistic expectations for yourself will help you avoid some stress in the first place. But when stress does arise, here are some ways to alleviate it naturally.

Photo by Maria Keays

1. Sleep.

Getting enough sleep at night is one way to combat stress. Unfortunately sleep can be hard to come by when you are feeling stressed out. Try some of the following to help yourself get more sleep at night:

  • Herbal tea. Make yourself a cup of herbal tea before bedtime. Chamomile tea is especially effective.
  • Warm milk. Add a spoonful of honey and a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg and drink shortly before bedtime.
  • Lavender. The scent of lavender has a calming effect and can help decrease stress. Make yourself a linen spray by adding 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil to a small spray bottle filled with distilled water and mist your pillow or use it as a room spray before going to bed at night.
  • Herbal Steam. Treat yourself to an herbal steam right before bed to relax yourself. Fill a steaming bowl of water or the sink with herbs that promote relaxation, such as chamomile and lavender. Lean your face over the bowl and cover your head with a towel. Breathe in the herbs and steam, making sure not to get your face too close to the hot water.
Photo by Clownfish

2. Treat tension and headaches naturally.

With stress often comes neck, shoulder and back tension, as well as headaches. To relieve tension and headaches try some of the following:

  • Herbal bath or foot bath. Add lavender essential oil or a sachet filled with dried lavender or chamomile to your bath water. Or, if you don’t have time for a full bath, try a foot bath. Heat water and herbs to a simmer for 5-10 minutes on your stove. Add the hot water and herbs to a large basin and adjust the temperature by adding cool water. Find a comfortable place to sit and relax, and soak your feet.
  • Peppermint essential oil for headaches. Rub a drop or two of peppermint essential oil into your temples or along the back of your neck. Use a carrier oil, such as olive oil to dilute the peppermint oil for sensitive skin.

3. Eat Right.

We know how we should be eating to feel our best, but it seems that in times of busyness and stress, we turn to all the foods that actually cause more trouble for our nervous system. This holiday season focus on eating real foods and avoiding or limiting the following:

  • Caffeine. It can be easy to turn to caffeine during times of added stress, especially if the stress is causing you to lose sleep. However, adding an extra cup of coffee in the morning or grabbing a late afternoon latte for a quick pick me up can often add to the problem. Try a cup of herbal tea instead.
  • Sugars and Sweets. Extra treats are in abundance during the holidays, and though they will often give you an initial energy boost, it will be followed by a severe drop in energy. Sugar also uses up calcium, which is needed even more during times of stress.
  • Alcohol. Many people turn to alcohol to relieve stress, but alcohol actually depresses the nervous system, and makes things worse. It also depletes calcium in much the same way as sugar does, so avoiding alcohol during stressful seasons is best.

For more tips on managing holiday stress, check out the Plan Your Peaceful Christmas series over at Simple Mom.

Do you experience more stress during the holidays? What are some healthy ways you manage your stress?