Just when I think life is busy enough and my to-do list can’t hold any more items, here comes the holidays again! Extra cooking, shopping, decorating, carrying on of family traditions, cleaning, getting ready for visits from family and friends and all the fun things the holidays bring. But it also means extra stress and anxiety. Medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Ken Duckworth, MD, attributes much of the stress and anxiety to the complexity of family relationships. Some of the other causes include the holidays bringing up past memories that are not always happy ones, dealing with relatives that you rarely see because after all you can pick your friends but can’t always pick your family, and the challenges that winter brings with less activity, cold and flu season, overeating, and less daylight hours. According to Ken Duckworth, MD, keeping family traditions alive that you dread or that cause extra inconvenience for you just adds even more stress. This is one area he believes you can take back some of your control however. He suggests making a list of those traditions with why you do them and then listing reasons to not do them or do them differently. After all, the holidays are supposed to be full of joy and harmony. If you are doing the same things you have always done and they make you unhappy, then it is possibly time to reconsider your family traditions.
Having realistic expectations for the holidays can also help you reduce your stress and anxiety over them. Know ahead of time that there will be things that go wrong, not everything will be or has to be absolutely perfect and figure out a schedule that allows you to get your holiday priorities accomplished without exhausting yourself. As Donna Schempp, the program director for the Family Caregiver Alliance, suggests, concentrate on enjoying the people around you at the holiday time instead of worrying about every little thing that could go wrong or about making everything perfect. In addition, here are a few more holiday de-stressing tips.
Get Outside – Sunlight helps your body make serotonin which is one of the chemicals the body produces that makes us feel good. According to Judith Orloff, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, being out in the sun also helps with relief of seasonal affective disorder that millions of people in the U.S. suffer with. And Ann Kulze, MD, an expert on nutrition-and-wellness, adds that walking helps reduce anxiety with the rhythm and repetition being soothing to the brain.
Turn on the Tunes – University of Maryland research has found listening to your favorite music can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow which helps you relax and is good for your heart health.
Aromatherapy – Citrus fragrances have been found to help in coping with stress and give one a mood boost by increasing levels of norepinephrine which is a hormone affecting mood.
Find Your Hoku spot – Between the index finger and thumb on the fleshy part is a place Traditional Chinese Medicine calls the hoku spot. When you feel extra stress, applying firm pressure on this spot for 30 seconds can help in relieving stress and body tension.
Need a Little More Help?
Whole food supplements can also help you deal with holiday stress. Chlorophyll and magnesium are two nutrients that help your body physically deal with stress and you’ll find both of these in bluegreen algae as well as omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce levels of cortisol caused by stress. Supporting your body’s natural probiotics is another good holiday plan. Not only does this help with digestive support during this period of overeating and eating more fatty foods and sugary foods than usual, it also helps in the production of B vitamins that help fight off stress responses. I like to make sure I get the probiotic support of acidophilus and bifidus as well as digestive enzymes as part of my holiday routine. I also find especially when traveling or running around getting my extra to-dos done, keeping these convenient packets with me gives me all of these nutritional tools wherever I am. Another supplemental combination I find useful during times when I really need to be able to focus and be at my best is in this algae supplement with organic wild bluegreen algae, eleuthero, Ginkgo biloba, Lion’s Mane, bee pollen, wheatgrass juice, and noni.
The holiday season is just getting started so now is the time to start planning ahead, setting priorities and doing what you can to reduce stress before it starts. When we get into the full swing of the holidays and you start feeling the stress and anxiety, I hope some of these tips will help you be less harried and more harmonious.
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