4 Narcotic-Free Ways to Cope With Dysfunctional Family Holidays

Maressa Brown

Soon, your relatives could be at your front door, and you'll be immersed in a whirlwind of cooking, arguing, eating, pestering, drinking, nagging ... etc. Sure, some aspects of holiday time can be harmonious, but every family faces their own form of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation-esque family dysfunction this time of year. And when contending with family friction, our gut reaction could be to gravitate to ... a big bottle of red wine. Mmm

Coping by hitting the bottle may have been okay for Don Draper. But, as you already know, that's not exactly the healthiest way to de-compress. Here, 5 quirky but better-for-you relaxing remedies that beat a whiskey and soda ... 

1. iChill

No, it's not a new air conditioner made by Mac. The calorie-free, sugar-free, anti-5 Hour Energy shot packs quite an R&R punch. It's basically the inverse of those drinks that rev-you-up 'til your heart palpitates. But it's non-alcoholic and pretty much free of anything sketchy. It's even sweetened with stevia instead of the usual lab-created artificial sweetener.

The active ingredients are melatonin (the sleepy hormone), valerian root (which increases production of the calming neurotransmitter GABA), rose hips, and B vitamins. According to the manufacturer, you drink half a bottle to just "chill out," and swig the whole bottle to get to bed easier. I've done both, and let me tell you -- it definitely takes the edge off on a spaz-tastic, deadline-packed Sunday night. Plus, it tastes a bit like blue cotton candy. Two thumbs up. Find more info here.

2. Lavender

Can't fall asleep cuz you're still clenching your teeth after practically coming to blows with your mother-in-law during dessert clean-up? Yeah, it's a tale as old as time. So is the folk remedy of using lavender to chill-ax, and the reason it's stuck around so long is because it works.

A study done at Wesleyan University found that when people sniffed lavender essential oil before bedtime, they slept more soundly and also felt more energetic the next day. So light a lavender candle, use one of those pillow sprays, or wear a lavender eye mask, and you should be totally prepared to face your MIL for round 2 in the morning.

3. Happy Camper

Chronic stress can quickly switch to a case of the holiday blues. If you're so run down that you're moping around, you might want to try a natural pick-me-up supplement called Happy Camper.

The herbal pills use kava kava (which also bolsters calming GABA for a natural sedative effect), passionflower (said to reduce anxiety, calm nervous system activity, and lower blood pressure), and a handful of other tension-taming herbs. Sounds wacky, but it is legit and can be found at The Vitamin Shoppe and online. 

4. Laughter yoga

No experience with Downward Dogs required. This form of yoga employs laughing, and breathing, to boost endorphins, increase circulation, and "dislodge blocked emotions" (you know, so you don't become totally passive-aggressive with your hubby when he decides to watch Family Guy for the forty-bazillionth time instead of do the dishes).

In other words, between the burnt sweet potatoes and late guests, you might do well to laugh your ass off! No jokes required. Don't know what to crack up about? Here are some laughter yoga exercises to get the ball rollin'.  

Would you try any of these stress-relievers? What's your own favorite way of coping with holiday stress?


Image via Emiliano De Laurentiis/Flickr

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