12 Guilty Pleasures that Combat Holiday Stress. If you’re like many busy moms, you may think that taking time to treat yourself is a crazy indulgence during the hectic holiday season. But when you nurture your spirit, you decrease stress and boost your happiness, creating a positive domino effect throughout your family.
“Guilty pleasures that combat Holiday Stress are very important if they are done in moderation,” says Laura Murphy, a marriage, parent and financial coach. “Self-care is crucial to being the best you can be. Putting yourself last is not healthy.”
Schedule mini-moments. Schedule time for yourself each week on the calendar. Take a walk or join a yoga or dance class.
“Look for ways each day that you can have ‘mini-moments’ that give you energy,” Murphy says. “Such as a 10-minute power nap, reading a magazine for 15 minutes, (or) calling up a friend just to share a good joke––laughter is a great indulgence!”
Play. Dee Kauffman plays puzzle games on a portable gaming system to relax. “I feel…mentally fine-tuned. It’s a way to use my brain in a non-stressful way and helps me unwind after those long days,” she says. “I may be the only house on the block where the kids do not have a handheld game system, but mom does!”
In fact, studies show that video games, board games and mind puzzlers, like crosswords and sudoku, is an excellent guilty pleasure to reduce stress and improve brain function and memory. Researchers at the University of Rochester report that video games also improve players abilities in everyday life like driving, multi-tasking and quicker decision-making.
Healing touch. Self-care, whether you spend a full day at the spa or sneak in a quick hand or foot massage, can brighten your mood, boost your self-esteem and help you feel beautiful and relaxed. According to a study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Swedish massage in particular reduces the stress hormone cortisol in the body and boosts immunity by increasing white blood cells, which fight infection and disease.
Watch TV. Television can take you out of your own reality allowing you to indulge in other people’s dramas. Kasey Weidman sets aside every Thursday
night to watch her favorite reality show alone in the “grown-up room” (her formal living room) with a frozen mojito in hand.
Read. About once or twice a month, following a hectic evening of extracurricular activities and homework, Caroline Winkler spends the next morning reading in bed after her kids leave for school. “Reading takes you out of yourself and your daily concerns and brings you back refreshed and ready for more,” she says.
Get creative. Try your hand at scrap-booking, sewing, knitting or cooking. Even if you feel creatively challenged, the act of focusing your attention completely on a project is meditative and calming. Need ideas? Check out continuing education classes, craft or pottery places or Pinterest.
Indulge your sense of smell. Aromatherapy, which is the use of natural essential plant oil like lavender, clary sage and geranium, plays a subtle role in influencing mood and physical well-being and is an excellent guilty pleasure you can engage in. Even some hospitals integrate aromatherapy to create a more healing environment. Something as simple as the smell of cookies baking, for example, provides sick patients, anxious families and busy staff with a homey scent and a warm, delicious treat.
Catch up over coffee. Join a friend for a cup of coffee and conversation. Socializing is good for your emotional health, boosting your levels of oxytocin, a natural hormone that decreases stress anxiety. And enjoyed in moderation, coffee is an antioxidant-rich drink. Research reveals that coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver cancer.
Hit the mall. Bargain hunt or indulge in a day dream. “Go into a very nice dress shop and just start trying on clothes,” Murphy says. “Think of the places you would dream of wearing it––Paris? San Francisco? London?”
Eat out. Plan a special dinner out with friends or your family. Each month Jennifer Gouteriez takes her family to an expensive, non-chain restaurant. “Fine dinner with a bottle of wine––$30 to $50 a plate.” She says after working hard all month, the special dinner is a way to treat herself and her family while also trying something new.
Take a hike. Exercise is good for your body and lifts your mood. If you can, take your fitness routine outdoors and you’ll reap even greater benefits. A Japanese study found that time spent among plants and trees improves the body’s immune function while also reducing blood pressure and lowering the stress hormone cortisol.
Head for the hills. If you can swing it, escape for a day. Rebecca Rowley, who lives in Colorado, plans an annual, late-season ski day with a friend. The day restores her sense of adventure. “I like having time for myself and I think that it is good to know that my family will be fine for a day without me and that they appreciate it when I’m around,” she says.
Whatever you do, sprinkle your life with small treats to add a sense of delight to those otherwise routine days. After all, as Murphy says: “Taking care of yourself so that you are revived, energized and ready to lead your busy family is one of the best gifts you can give your family.”