Stressed about the upcoming holidays?
The American Psychological Association found that 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men say they are more stressed during the winter holiday season than any other time of year.
All that cooking, hosting, traveling and family time can be fun, but it's another layer of things to do on top of your already busy schedule. And if your finances are tight, you may be wondering (and worrying) how you will afford it all.
If you feel your mind going a million miles a minute, consider turning to your computer or smartphone to relax. It may sound counterintuitive, but there are a lot of great apps, websites and podcasts out there that can help you de-stress, even if all you have is 15 minutes.
Here are some great ways to unwind.
1. Skip the holiday music in the car, listen to a dharma talk podcast instead: Christmas music is fun, but to help you keep the holidays in perspective, try listening to a free "dharma talk" during your commute to work. A dharma talk is when a Buddhist teacher speaks on a certain topic, such as "Compassion" or "Loving Kindness" or "Right Speech." You'll find hundreds of options at AudioDharma.org, which is an archive of talks given at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood, Calif. They are all free.
2. Take an online yoga class: During the busy holiday season, you may not have time to commute to a yoga class, so consider streaming one online instead. YogaVibes.com has great teachers and dozens of classes to choose from. First-time customers can stream as many classes as they like for free for 15 days. After that you have to pay $20 for a monthly pass, or $200 to access the site's videos for a year. If you're short on time, consider Annie Carpenter's "Chill-Out Sequence." It's just 16 minutes, and ends with a very relaxing body scan.
3. Download a guided meditation: When you are running around like a crazy person, even just five minutes of sitting still and paying attention to your breathing can help you calm down. You'll find free, short mindfulness meditations on UCLA's Mindfulness Awareness Meditation Center website. Insight LA also offers free Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction meditations on its website.
4. Do nothing for two minutes: If you are looking for even less of a time commitment, check out donothing for2minutes.com. You'll find a picture of the ocean at sunset, the sounds of waves and a timer that will count down two minutes. If you touch your mouse or keyboard while the timer is going, the words "fail" will appear on the screen and the timer will reset. One note of warning: Close your e-mail before you begin. When I tried this, the timer kept resetting every time I got a new e-mail alert. Also, it may feel like the longest two minutes of your life.
5. Ring the bell: If you have your own meditation practice, consider downloading the Insight Timer app from Apple's App Store or Google Play. It won't change your life, but it does let you choose from nine bell sounds to signal the start of your meditation, and when to wind it down. It's hardly necessary, but for $1.99, it's fun. And meditating is always easier when you let someone else, or something else, mind the time.