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Peace of Mind During the Season of Giving

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: We get expert tips on managing stress during the busy holiday season.


It’s a week before Christmas and you have no presents, no plan for a Christmas dinner and you’ve just found out your relatives from across the country are flying in tomorrow instead of in three days.  

You’re headed to pick up a Christmas tree with the entire family, but the kids are being fussy and your phone keeps beeping with e-mails from work. To top it all off, you take a wrong turn and miss the lot by two blocks. Sound like a nightmare? For some, this holiday scene might be all too familiar.

But the stress of the season is manageable, according to Dr. Robert Puff and licensed clinical social worker Nancy Travers.

These two are no strangers to the stress and anxiety associated with the holidays.  As the host of three podcasts, one show, author of 10 books, and with offices in Newport Beach and Brea, Puff has helped a variety of individuals, families and organizations with many issues, including anxiety, for 25 years. With 22 years of experience in therapy and counseling, Travers of Newport Beach works daily with people who have clinical anxiety. Her focus on cognitive-behavioral therapy; solution-focused, positive psychology; crisis intervention; and hypnosis therapies help relieve stress and anxieties that distress her patients.   

Here is their advice for staying calm during the stressful season:

Try yoga and meditation, says Puff. A simple method for relaxation is by using his simple meditation technique. “As you breathe in, say ‘I am’, then breathe out[and say] ‘peaceful,’” Puff says. “You will become more peaceful.”  

Prioritize. “We think we can do 25 things in one day when really we can only do 12,” says Travers. She encourages “having realistic expectations of yourself, of your time [and] of what you can accomplish.” Puff also encourages prioritization of tasks and focusing on what needs to be done in the present moment.

Communicate with supportive people. Travers suggests finding a support team to talk to in times of stress or anxiety. Talk to your spouse, other family member or friend to help get the anxiety out. In talking things out, we can often realize what is important and what can be put off.

Avoid alcohol as a form of stress relief. “What you’re looking for is something to relax you,” says Puff. “Alcohol is a painkiller, [not a relaxant].” Alcohol consumption during times of anxiety can lead to dependence, and sometimes, an addiction.   

Practice moderation. Overbooking yourself to keep busy or overeating are both negative forms of dealing with stress and anxiety, says Travers.     

Take a break. It's important to step away from the stressor for a moment of relaxation. “It doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of time,” Travers says. She suggests taking 10 to 20 minutes for yourself daily in order to relieve stress and be able to take on the day. Puff suggests stopping your work, getting outdoors and deep breathing. “Realize all of the stress is in your mind,” Puff says.

Looking for a place to relax? Check out these venues for yoga and meditation:

Yoga Shakti Wellness Center in Irvine offers classes in most levels and types of yoga, including prenatal, Yin and Yang and Shakti. This center also offers great deals on yoga, such as a $49 one month unlimited yoga pass. :: yogashaktistudio.com

Ra Yoga in Costa Mesa offers classes with different temperatures, speeds, levels, and goals (spiritual or physical). Individual classes are $16 and monthly membership ranges from $120 to $150. :: rayoga.com   

ET Chiropractic & Wellness in Newport Beach offers classes every Thursday in meditation. Discussion topics for these classes range from managing anger to accepting change. Each class is a flat rate of $12. :: etchiropractic.com

Center for Living Peace in Irvine offers classes in yoga and meditation, as well as a variety of other programs, such as collage workshops, drumming workshops and jewelry making workshops. Classes range in price from about $5 to $20. :: goodhappens.org

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