Beating Holiday Stress
Take Time to Focus on You
It’s that time again! The holidays are right around the corner. Many of us have already started holiday shopping and planning the dinners, and family gatherings or at least starting our To-Do lists. There is a lot of advice out there on how to beat holiday stress by shopping on-line to avoid the crowds, and how to simplify the holiday feasts, but even though our intentions are good, most of us end up falling right back into our regular and often times expected holiday routines. This article lists a few ideas for different things you can do for yourself in between the shopping, decorating and food preparation tasks that you just can’t walk away from.
Whether you are a full time parent, professional (or both!), student, or care-giver, you need to make time for yourself during the busy holidays to help de-stress and relax. Try some of the following relaxation tips and you’ll be sure to have a merrier holiday season.
I can’t stress enough the importance of breathing – deeply and often. Taking slow, deep breaths several times throughout the day will help your mind and body relax while remaining energized. And by replacing the carbon dioxide in your lungs with oxygen, the oxygen in your blood stream is increased, helping your mind become more alert. Put a reminder on your phone or place sticky-notes in your car, around your house (the refrigerator & mirrors are perfect places) or office to remind yourself to breathe. When you come across these reminders, take a moment to pay attention to your breath. If you notice that you are holding your breath, or that your breath is shallow, then it is time to take a long, slow, deep breath. Inhale slowly through your nose to fill up your abdomen and chest, and then exhale slowly through your nose, releasing the air in your chest and abdomen. To help keep your focus on your breath, count slowly while breathing in and then try to count to that same number while exhaling. Repeat several times to help maintain an even breath.
The stress of holiday planning causes the muscles to tighten, which can result in stiffness and pain. Stretching will improve circulation and help bring oxygen to your muscles to help alleviate any pain or stiffness, and will offer a sense of well-being and relaxation. Take deep breaths while stretching to help maximize the healing potential of the activity. As you are sitting in your office chair, at home writing out your To Do list, or spoon feeding your toddler, take the time to stretch your neck muscles. Sit upright, relax your shoulders and take a deep breath, and while you exhale, slowly bring your right ear towards your right shoulder, inhale while bringing your head to center. Repeat on the other side. Inhale, then exhale, bringing your left ear towards your left shoulder, inhale, while bringing your head to center. You can also repeat the breathing technique while bringing your head forward, chin to chest and tilting your head back.
While you are standing in the kitchen cooking dinner, or before you retire for the evening, do a forward bend. Stand with your feet together and spine straight. Inhale and reach your arms toward the ceiling, stretching your spine, then exhale, bending at the hips to bring your hands toward the floor. At this point you should breathe deeply while relaxing your shoulders and letting your head and arms hang loose. You should feel a good stretch in your lower back, glutes and calves, while feeling the tension drain from your body. To return to an upright position, take in a deep breath while slowly straightening your spine one vertebrae at a time until your spine is straight and you are in a standing position with your arms at your side. Then exhale.
Singing releases tension through your voice and will also help reduce holiday stress by taking your mind off the million tasks running through your head. While you are in your car, turn on the radio and sing along with a favorite song. If you are home with the children, sing along with one of their TV shows or play the radio to sing along with one of your favorite tunes. Don’t be self conscience about doing this either. There are more people than not that love to sing, and it just might catch on to others who need a moment to clear their minds.
There is nothing worse than feeling constipated or bloated when you have a list of things to get done. This is the time of year when everyone seems to be baking breads, pies and cookies that we can’t resist trying. The additional sugar and white flours can upset our digestive systems, so be sure to incorporate more vegetables, fruits and whole grains like oatmeal and whole wheat bread into your diet to help keep your bowels regular. You can also add Psyllium Husk or Chia Seeds to your hot cereal or smoothie for extra fiber. Be sure to add extra fiber slowly and drink extra water to add in elimination and to prevent gas.
This is my all time favorite way of relaxing and can feel like a true indulgence because you must make time for it. It cannot be done while stopped in traffic or preparing your evening meal. Find the time at least once a week to soak in a bath filled with your favorite scented oil or bubbles. Indulge in a bath at the end of week before going to bed, or if you are home with the children, take a bath during nap time instead of folding the laundry. Turn off the lights, light a candle and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and focus on each breath to keep your mind from wandering. In no time at all, you will feel the tension drain from your body. If you don’t have a bath tub, use your favorite scented body wash in the shower and linger a few moments longer to let the hot water hit the back of your neck and shoulders.
The most important thing to remember during the holiday season is that it is OK to take time to focus on your own needs and do something to help you relax. Many things that can help you relax only take a few minutes to do, so find the time, choose a technique that works for you, relax and enjoy.