9 Ways To De-Stress During The Holidays In Less Than 10 Minutes

Take time to recharge, so you feel overjoyed (not overwhelmed).

December 13, 2017
wrapping presents

It’s been nearly a month since you made five pies for Thanksgiving, refereed political debates at the table, and froze and labeled your leftovers, and with barely a second to breathe, it’s already time to decorate the tree, wrap presents, plan a Christmas menu, and start welcoming the endless influx of family and guests.

The holiday season can seem like a two-month sprint, and it’s easy to become frazzled, stressed, and burned out. But it turns out you don’t need much time to renew and recharge—here are 9 ways to take nine minutes just for you and help make the holidays a time for feeling overjoyed instead of overwhelmed.

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yoga in bedroom
Do a bit of yoga

While studio classes can range from half an hour to an hour and a half, you don’t need that much time to take advantage of the relaxation yoga can bring you. To take advantage of yoga at home, just shut your bedroom door, unroll your mat, and put on one of Adriene Mishler’s 7-minute yoga videos. Mishler has an approachable attitude towards yoga, and these little videos make it easy to find just a few minutes to get back in touch with your body and your breath before facing whatever the most hectic time of the year has thrown at you.

Related: I Did Yoga Every Day For A Month And This Is What Happened

woman in a car
Breathe meaningfully

You don’t need to be near your yoga mat—or even at home—to use nine minutes to just breathe. Sally Kempton, meditation expert and Gaia.com teacher, recommends deep belly breathing for a truly cleansing and refreshing experience that you can get anywhere, from the grocery store line to the carpool pickup lane.

“Take some time to establish a connection with your diaphragm or your lower belly,” she says. “Let the breath be moved by the diaphragm and be drawn down to the lower abdomen, even pushing your lower abdomen out, and then when you exhale, exhale all the air, pulling your lower abdomen in towards your spine. It takes a little practice, but once you know how to do it, it's astonishingly fast at bringing energy and calm to your body.”

Related: 20 Reasons To Start Meditating

While you breathe, you could also chant a mantra, either out loud or in your head. One that Kempton suggests is, “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free, may I be loving.” You can then extend this to individual groups, such as family and friends, followed by extending it to the world on the whole.

“That itself can often be enough, not just to resolve stress but also to bring us more into what we might call the holiday spirit,” she says.

reading a book
Read an essay

Tap into renewing your intellectual energy by reading something beautiful, inspiring, or just plain funny—a great essay or short story can stay with you for hours or even days.

Medium essays are sorted not only by theme but by the approximate amount of time it will take you to read them, so even if you’ve only got 9 minutes, you’ll be able to find something you have the time to finish. And if you’d like to bring your kids into the fold, Storyberries offers great short stories for reading aloud, sorted not only by theme and intended age level but also by the amount of time it takes you to read them—the perfect way to unwind as a family before bed.

Discover 6 health benefits of reading just a few minutes each day:

taking a nap
Take a pseudo-nap

No one’s claiming you can actually take a nap in nine minutes, but according to sleep expert and CMO at sleep tech company Reverie, Lisa Tan, you might be able to get a quick mental reset or “virtual catnap” that will do you just as much good.

Head into your bedroom, shut the door, and turn off the lights.

“Close your eyes and visualize that there is a thick gray fog collecting in your body,” says Tan. “Imagine you are sweeping up the fog limb by limb and consolidating it in the center of your abdomen. Sweep the last bit of fog from your neck, shoulder and head, pulling the tension and stress away from that part of your body. Now ball it up and shoot the ball of fog—representing your anxieties, worry and exhaustion—straight through the top of your head and into outer space.”

Related: Why You Should Take A Mid-Day Snooze

When you’ve finished this exercise, open your eyes and take a moment to stretch before heading back out into the melee—you’ll be feeling much more relaxed and focused.

woman cutting vegetables
Astronaut Images/getty
Hang in the kitchen

With all the meal planning, prepping, cooking, and dish-washing chaining you to the kitchen this holiday season, going in there voluntarily might seem like the last thing you want to do. But according to Lia Huber, founder and CEO of NOURISH Evolution, hanging in the kitchen for just nine minutes could be just the emotional reset you need—and it can help stave off future stress.

“If you're really mindful in the act of cooking, it can be very rejuvenating,” she says, noting that nine minutes can be super-productive if you focus on just one task.

First off, kick everyone else out of the kitchen, and put on some music you love. “Then it becomes your time,” she says. Once you’re alone, take a minute to look at the meals that are coming up, and figure out if there are any ways you can make your life easier later, like washing and peeling vegetables, chopping onions, making a salad dressing or a marinade.

Related: Delicious Vegan Holiday Recipes That'll Satisfy Even Your Meat-Loving Guests

“Work on some of these smaller tasks outside of the heat of the moment, when the whole recipe needs to be made,” says Huber. “That will ease the burden later. And if we go into it in kind of this mindful, joyful place, it can really be almost a meditation in and of itself.”

listening to headphones
Tetra Images/getty
Listen to a podcast

If you really need to go somewhere else for nine minutes, consider putting on your headphones for a nine-minute audio vacation. The Nine-Minute Roadtrip is a compilation of five songs that NPR notes is “carefully crafted to function as a microcosm of longer road mixes.” Featuring an impressively eclectic selection in just nine minutes, this listening experience will leave you feeling like you’ve spent far more time on your own.

Related: 6 Uplifting Podcasts To Listen To When You're In A Funk

Another great option is the nine-minute Daily Boost, a podcast that offers daily motivations for self-improvement in short, nine-minute bursts for an emotional pick-me-up.

drinking hot chocolate

Nine minutes can feel much longer when you unplug. Instead of scrolling through your newsfeed, consider sitting in a quiet place and lighting a candle or having a cup of coffee and just staring out the window: this can be at home or at your favorite local coffee shop, on your lunch break, for example.

Related: 9 Soothing Teas To Calm Nerves

“The reverberations throughout the rest of your day will be huge, especially if you make it a daily practice,” says Huber. Set a meditation app for nine minutes so you won’t be tempted to check in with the clock before your “me time” is over.

Tereza Tsyauloyskaja / FOAP/getty
Knit a few rows

For people who like to measure their success, starting a simple knitting project like a scarf or a small baby blanket is a great option. If you’ve never knit before, try How to Knit to help you get started, or ask a friend who knows how to knit to help you cast on and learn a few simple stitches.

Related: 6 Simple Ways You Can Use Crafting To Relieve Stress And Anxiety

Nine minutes can get you through at least a few rows, depending on the size of your project, and it can give your mind the time and space to wander while you work. As your project grows, you’ll be able to see evidence of all of the times you decided to just take a few minutes for yourself.

winter walk
Take a walk

If a closed door won’t keep out your kids, spouse, dogs, or in-laws, consider using your nine minutes for a walk.

“This is a great way to reconnect to yourself so you feel more centered, grounded and at ease in your own body,” says Erin Stutland is a mind-body wellness and fitness expert and host of ward-winning transformation series Altar’d on Z Living. “The bonus is that getting out and moving in the fresh air can help release those ‘feel good’ endorphins. This is particularly helpful if you tend to get a little blue during the holiday season, which happens to the best of us.”

Huber agrees, noting that even just stepping out onto your front porch can help you get some much-needed perspective on the minutia making you so stressed. “You get to feel the crisp air, and you get to hear birdsong and smell chimney smoke, and it just gets you out of the feeling of being crushed in your house with people all around and gets you into the wide open,” she says.

Related: Why You Should Take A 5-Minute Walking Break Every Day

At the end of the day, it’s not how much time you have to yourself but how you decide to use it that counts. Whatever you choose, don’t skimp on these precious moments to recharge and renew – when you come back from your nine-minute mini-break, you’ll be even more present and grateful to be spending time with those you love.