Stress vs. the Sauna: How to Survive the Holidays

Does your holiday to-do list look something like this?

  • Buy presents (don’t forget the gift recipes!)
  • Worry about whether or not you bought the right presents
  • Feel guilty about buying presents online instead from a small local business
  • Make homemade presents for grandparents and teachers (hope it doesn’t turn out looking tacky!)
  • Wrap presents
  • Hide presents from snoopy children and/or spouse
  • Locate your Christmas tree in the basement under a pile of Halloween decorations
  • Decorate the Christmas tree
  • Try to get your belligerent teenager to help you decorate the Christmas tree
  • Unleash Christmas on the remainder of your house
  • Get 911 on speed dial while watching your spouse on a ladder stringing Christmas lights to the house
  • Prop the Christmas tree back up after the cat/dog knocks it over
  • Write the family Christmas letter
  • Print 500 copies of the family Christmas letter
  • Discover a typo in the family Christmas letter
  • Reprint 500 copies of the revised family Christmas letter
  • Address 100 envelopes with fancy red and green calligraphy pens
  • Hand 400 remaining envelopes to your elementary-age child to finish addressing (Don’t worry; everyone will think it’s cute and charming.)
  • Stuff 500 copies of the revised family Christmas letter into the addressed envelopes
  • Lick and stamp 500 envelopes
  • Brusquely shove bundle of 500 Christmas letters into the mailbox
  • Find out how many people will be coming over for Christmas dinner
  • Delegate items to bring to whoever has said they are coming
  • Try not to resent the person who volunteers to bring napkins and nothing else
  • Attend the kids’ Christmas program for school
  • Attend the kids’ Christmas program for church
  • Attend the kids’ Christmas program for their extracurricular activity (activities?!)
  • Attend your workplace holiday party
  • Attend your spouse’s workplace holiday party
  • Attend some other requisite holiday party
  • Bake cookies
  • Bake more cookies
  • Bake more cookies that are organic, gluten-free, peanut-free, and non-GMO
  • Frost cookies
  • Frost more cookies
  • Make up plates of cookies to give away
  • Find freezer space for all the plates of cookies you receive
  • Start counting down the hours until the day after Christmas!

Okay, breathe.

Christmas is supposed to be a special holiday. If your holiday season has been getting out of hand in recent years, maybe it’s time to reassess and simplify? And while you’re at it, it might be good to plan on having some coping mechanisms in place that will help you step back and recharge when you need to.

For hundreds of years now, the traditional Finnish-style sauna has been a refuge of relaxation and calm, almost a sacred space set apart from the froth and turbulence of daily living. The North American Sauna Society describes it well:

“Why sauna? To enjoy the numerous health benefits sauna bathing provides, trim excess weight, or sooth the muscles after an exercise? No, a Finn is aware of all those things and more, but goes to sauna to relax. There it is, after stressful office hours or farming the field. This is Quality Time, often alone. To meditate, to think about something else than the daily matters and issues. Hear the sizzle of the water turning into steam when sprinkled on the rocks in the heater or stove, feel the smooth heat getting more intense and humid after each sprinkle. The sweat, the toxins removed and body purified with that moisture.”

Traditional sauna use is often associated with relaxation benefits such as lower stress levels and better sleep at night. Is it because it is an intentional choice that initiates positive psychological responses? Or is it because the heat and steam produce some physical quality that lowers blood pressure, improves circulatory function, and releases endorphins? Perhaps a little of both.

So have you spent some time in the sauna today? If not, go get that sauna heater going. It’s time for a break.

November 28, 2016 •