Festive ways to keep calm and decrease stress levels during this Christmas period

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Hum Silent Night

Humming to yourself not only helps calm breathing but creates vibrations that massage the section of the vagus nerve near your vocal cords. Activating this nerve turns off your fight or flight reflex, telling your brain and heart to calm down while triggering the release of feel-good neurotransmitters, including oxytocin, to promote feelings of relaxation.

Have some celery with your Stilton

Chewing helps to reduce cortisol levels by engaging the calming side of the nervous system and unlocking a clenched jaw. And, unlike gum, it contains a calming chemical apigenin (also found in camomile) which is used in anxiety and insomnia remedies.

Take your time peeling and eating a satsuma

Researchers studying depression have found that citrus fragrances can boost feelings of wellbeing and alleviate stress by upping levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that affects mood.

Get outdoors every day – preferably by a lake, river, sea or stream

Walking in nature can have a restorative effect by reducing the level of the stress hormone cortisol compared to exercising indoors or watching TV, research suggests. And a study by the University of Essex found while all types of outdoor exercise have an impact on mental health, being near water generates the greatest benefits.

Cooking for a dozen people and all you want to do is scream? Try palming

Rub your hands together vigorously for a minute. Then cup them over your closed eyes for five seconds while you breathe deeply. The warmth and darkness are comforting and resting your eyes can also help to relax your entire body.

Watch Home Alone

Snuggle down with the family to watch a funny festive film. Studies show that laughter boosts our energy, decreases stress hormones, improves immunity and even diminishes pain.

Pile your plate high with sprouts

They’re not just a source of healthy vitamins and antioxidants, they contain lots of magnesium. A deficiency in this nutrient is linked to mental health issues, including anxiety.

Make room for your gifts

Studies show living with clutter causes stress as well as mess. So, in readiness for present swapping, have a clear out and either sell unwanted possessions or donate to a charity shop.

Enjoy the moment!

Stressed-out people always worry about what happens next in life instead of enjoying the here and now. Harley Street’s Dr Rupert Critchley says: “Remember, Instagram is a highlights reel and not real life. Reduce usage of all photo-sharing apps, live in the moment and appreciate the small things over the festive season.”

Make the most of having the family together by getting everyone – young and old – to recall a happy childhood memory

One in five feel more optimistic and energised by doing this, according to a recent survey.

Ready? Steady… Bake!

This is a surefire way to inject a little festive cheer into the Christmas countdown. And studies show the repetitive nature of tasks like weighing, chopping and mixing is also meditative and therapeutic. Don’t rush – see this as a time to wind down and switch off.

Grab the nutcracker

Nuts are great sources of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and omega oils – which are all quickly used up by the body when stress strikes.

Turn gift wrapping into meditation

Folding paper engages the mind and eye to bring about a relaxing and calming effect.

Run a bath

Adding Epsom salts makes you feel more lightweight and buoyant while helping your muscles relax. Your body also absorbs the salts, which helps replenish magnesium stores, a mineral that is reduced when you feel stressed.

Cuddle a canine

Therapy dogs have emerged as a major source of stress reduction among students at several UK universities. Participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy.

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Don’t rely on energy drinks

“Caffeine is a stimulant which can feel like it’s giving you energy but, as it increases your heart rate, it can also increase feelings of anxiety and stress,” advises Marcus Herbert, physiologist at Nuffield Health. And if it’s drunk after 2pm, it will also have an impact on sleep quality.

Put Michael Buble on in the background

Music has a positive effect on the brain and body, and can lower blood pressure and cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.

Don’t wear black

You can change your mood with the colours you wear. Colour therapy says green symbolises nature, giving you a feeling of escape while blue represents the soothing hues of sea and sky.

Light a festive candle

Research suggests certain aromas can alter brainwave activity and decrease stress hormones in the body. The new NEOM Christmas Wish Candle ( from £32) burns more cleanly as it doesn’t contain paraffin wax and blends two of these calming scents – fruity citrus and spicy cinnamon – with comforting Tonka bean. Aromatherapy diffusers and body lotions with these scents can be just as effective.

Pucker up under the mistletoe

Kissing can reduce tension and anxiety because it lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. And the more we kiss, acknowledge our partners and take time to appreciate them, the better it is for our relationship.

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