The Surprising Ways People Cope With Holiday Stress 

And three science-backed ways to beat it.

Photo by Jennifer Boggs/Getty Images

This season is certainly joyful, but also hectic—from party planning to gift giving, it can seem like the to-do list never ends. Plus, everyone dreads travel during the holidays, where you’re almost guaranteed to run into flight delays or snowy roads. In fact, a new survey from Yahoo Travel found that bad weather is the largest holiday travel stressor for Americans, followed by traffic, cost, and family conflict. 

What would Americans give up in exchange for a stress-free season? According to the survey, one-third would relinquish junk food, and almost a third would give up alcohol. Funny, considering 22 percent claim they drink alcohol to deal with holiday stress. The most popular coping mechanism, however, was praying.

If you’re looking for more ways to
beat stress this season, here are a few research-backed methods that will (hopefully) do the trick.

1. Help others. The holidays are a great time to give back or lend a hand. And now new research suggests that helping others may help you too—by decreasing stress levels. According to the American Psychological Association, generous behaviors helped to alleviate the effects of daily stress, based on results from a two-week study. If your family is driving you crazy, get everyone out of the house to volunteer for an afternoon.

2. Do the dishes. Your sink is full during the holidays—there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to wash all of the plates, silverware, and cooking tools before the next meal. Luckily, this chore has an upside. A Florida State University study showed that incorporating mindfulness into the task can actually help you relax. Focus on the minute details of the task—the smell of the soap, the temperature of the water—to reap the full meditative benefits without taking a chunk of time to actually meditate.

3. Color. It’s not just for kids anymore—the phenomenon of adult coloring books can be a welcome distraction for stressed-out grownups. In an official statement, the American Art Therapy Association said that while it can’t replace actual therapy, the activity is an effective technique for reducing stress. Borrow a book from your child (or buy one for yourself) and take five minutes to unwind.