10 Tricks to De-Stressing Before the Holidays

Healthy SELF, SELF Magazine

Dr. Catherine Birndorf, SELF magazine

I don't know about you, but it's disconcerting to me that Christmas decorations have already started going up in storefronts and mall displays. It seems like the holidays start earlier and earlier each year, so it's no wonder that Yahoo.com reports that searches for stress and relaxation solutions have already been ticking up. We like to imagine the holiday season as all hot apple cider and mistletoe, but the truth is it can be a very stressful, anxious time.

In small doses, stress can be a motivator and energizer, but chronic stress actually changes your brain structure so it's hard for your brain to calm down even after a crisis passes, according to new research. Plus, stress tamps down your immune system, which means you're more susceptible to getting sick--a double whammy during flu season.

Related: 21 Good-For-You Snacks

You know the usual culprits for stress management: regular exercise, eating well and spending time with loved ones. And it turns out these tried and true destressors actually reverse those brain changes brought on by chronic stress, meaning they can combat the bad consequences of stress in addition to busting the stress itself.

Looking for newer, more out-there stress fighters? So are lots of other folks! Yahoo! reports the following top-searched therapies from the past month:

-Light Therapy
-Scream Therapy
-Music Therapy
-Magnet Therapy
-Lunar Therapy
-Depression Therapy
-Color Therapy
-Art Therapy

Some of these probably sound familiar: Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," is what counselors and therapists (including myself) practice in order to equip patients with the tools and strategies to thrive and also to facilitate self-knowledge and awareness of patterns in behavior so they can start to make desired changes in their lives. Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine that uses essential oils to affect your mood or health; some people swear by it for stress relief, though the clinical evidence isn't strong.

See more: Julianne Hough's Secrets for Staying Fit, Sexy and Satisfied

Others of these therapies might sound new to you--in fact, some of them are new to me! A bit of research on lunar therapy, for example, taught me that it purports to channel the moon's beams to relieve depression, pain and other ailments. Huh. I can't say I'm quite sold.

When you seek out health information or strategies for stress relief, it's important to follow the practice of "do no harm." There isn't a lot of scientific research on the benefits of many alternative medicines--e.g. magnet therapy--but if you do your research and find that it's not going to hurt you and it may in fact help you, it might be worth a try. Even if aromatherapy doesn't cure you of an infection (as some claim it does), if the oils smell nice and you find them relaxing, why not try it?

If something works to help keep you cool, calm and collected during this crazy time of year (it's starting, people!), and doesn't otherwise hurt you, I say, go for it.

More from SELF:

20 Superfoods for Weight Loss
Yoga Moves for Flat Abs
38 Antiaging Foods
12 Ways to Think Yourself Slim
Gwyneth Paltrow's Arm and Ab Workout