Here’s what to do when you feel your stress level increasing over the holidays.

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Your boss just asked you to work late tonight to finish an important report.

Your spouse texted to ask if you’d stop for milk and eggs at the grocery store on your way home from work (whenever you finally leave the office).

Your parents will arrive for the holidays on Friday and you still need to find time to clean the house. And finish the Christmas shopping. And do the laundry. And decorate the house. And wrap the presents. And finish two big projects at work. And …

Feeling your stress level rising just thinking about everything you need to accomplish before Christmas? Here are eight tips to reduce stress, so you can spend more time enjoying the holidays.

Breathe. Just breathe. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Even a few moments of serenity can decrease your heart rate (and stress level).

Take a break. Go for a quick walk during lunch or down the street for a coffee or tea break. The fresh air and exercise will clear your mind and rejuvenate your body — and you’ll be able to focus better when you return to your desk.

Get organized. Write a list of everything you need to accomplish, so you can see it in front of you.

Prioritize. Look through your list and rearrange it in order of priority. What can you push out until after the holidays? What can you delegate to others?

Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit. Pull out your ear buds and turn on some holiday music while you work. Extra credit: Drink some hot chocolate with a candy cane swizzle stick, to really get yourself into the holiday mood.

Take time for yourself. All work and no play makes Jack/Jill a grumpy employee. To avoid becoming an office Scrooge, do something to relax, be that stopping at the gym for a quick workout or soaking in a bubble bath.

Laugh (a lot). An international research team at Oxford University found that when people laugh hard, the human body triggers the release of endorphins that help reduce the feeling of pain and promote feelings of general well-being. So go ahead, laugh more … even at work.

Lisa Quast, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs
Lisa Quast, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs

Smile (even if you’re not happy). Psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sara Pressman studied the benefits of smiling and found that smiling during brief stressors can lower heart rate and reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.

Whenever you feel your stress level increasing from work, family or holiday commitments, give yourself a brief timeout and try one (or more) of these stress-busting tactics.

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at