Let's face it: The holiday season can be pretty stressful. There's shopping, working, gift buying, crowds, family stress and all of that "special" food! At best, it can feel overwhelming. At worst, completely out of control. What to do?
Well, before we get to that, let's review how stress affects our bodies. Stress is a natural reaction to danger and isn't necessarily a bad thing. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, kicks in during times of crisis to make you more alert and prepared for action. Your senses are heightened, and the brain and immune system are primed. Other functions, like digestion, slow down. When safety returns, the body goes back to status quo. The challenge comes when the "danger" doesn't resolve - the body never gets the chance to "settle down" and recuperate. Chronic stress can lead to slower immune system responses, impaired cognitive function, lack of appetite control and sleep difficulties. Yikes!
So, what to do about all of that added holiday stress? Here are some of the things I try:
- Create gift-giving plans to avoid last minute shopping and rushing. It also helps keep me on budget - don't need to add financial stress!
- Stick to an exercise program! A great stress buster, exercise keeps your blood flowing, oxygen moving and helps control your weight. For relaxing movement, try Tai Chi, Qigong, yoga, gentle stretching, walking or Pilates.
- Make time for yourself! Spend some time alone drinking a cup of calming tea, reading a good book or magazine, taking a cat nap, getting a massage, taking a walk, listing to some favorite music or hanging out with your cat or dog. Even just five minutes can be helpful.
- Keep your diet simple and healthy. We all try special things at parties, but for the most part focus on whole foods and a balance of nutrients. Go for fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
- Don't use the holidays as a reason to go overboard on anything - especially caffeine and alcohol. Try to moderate refined and added sugar too!
- Get enough rest! A well-rested body will be better able to cope with holiday stress.
- Breathe! When most people inhale, their lungs fill to only 1/6th their capacity. Focusing on slow, deep breathing is one of the simplest ways to calm our bodies. Here's a simple exercise: Breathe steadily and deeply through your nose, hold, exhale steadily, and then hold. Start small, and as you continue to practice, you can inhale, exhale and hold for longer periods of time.
- Use calming essential oils, like lavender and chamomile. You can sniff straight from the bottle, put a few drops on a cotton ball and place under your pillow, sprinkle a bit on the floor of a warm shower or in a humidifier.
- Boost your magnesium intake - the "anti-stress" mineral. Found in nuts, seeds, whole grains and leafy greens, magnesium is known to help promote relaxation and proper nervous system function.
- Reach for the Rescue Remedy™. A long-standing favorite, Rescue Remedy is a mixture of Bach flower essences that work to provide natural stress relief -perfect for overwhelming holiday stress and bustle.
I hope you all have a very calm and relaxed holiday season! How are you planning to make that happen?