Holidays are stressful for everyone. Between food shopping, cleaning the house, setting the table and cooking a lavish meal, most are already up to their eyeballs in grasshoppers. Add in the typical family dynamics, house guests and cleaning up after everyone and most reach their threshold before the holiday is over.
As a leading authority on balancing the emotional body to prevent sickness and disease, I wish to offer you a few simple tips for eliminating stress so you can truly enjoy your holidays. These are strictly offered as a suggestion but it is up to you to implement them and really be proactive in your own well-being. If you don’t take time out for yourself, you are missing the key ingredient for bringing harmony to your dinner table and to your other festivities.
1. Get plenty of sleep including taking a 15-30 minute nap everyday right after lunch. Not only do you give your body a chance to digest your food properly but you reset your body’s rhythms.
2. Listen to some classical music. Playing calming music has a positive effect on your brain and lowers your blood pressure, reduces cortisol, the hormone linked to stress and it calms the central nervous system. If you are not a fan of classical music then listen to some nature or ocean sounds.
3. Call a friend. Many times taking a break to just sit and chat with a friend will have the same effect as chatting with a therapist. The idea is to get your mind off of the holidays and instead just spend time laughing and enjoying a lighthearted conversation. Gaining perspective is everything to shifting stress. Talking to yourself is another way to gain perspective, don’t be shy, no one is going to judge you.
4. Eat a balanced diet. A healthy diet with a balance of proteins, fruits and vegetables is just common sense but also aids in reducing stress. Fruits and vegetables are always good, and fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress. A tuna sandwich really is brain food.
5. Don’t take anything personal! The holidays are often fodder for family disagreements and arguments. Make a rule to not solve any family issues during the holidays and change the subject if anyone goes down that path. Life is too short, make some wonderful memories instead of holding court.
6. Laugh! Laughter releases endorphin’s that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Rent or go see a funny movie, watch some funny You Tube videos. Go to a comedy club or just watch some sitcoms. Laughter is the ultimate medicine for anything from sickness to mood swings.
7. Exercise in moderation. That does not mean kill yourself at the gym. You can engage in water exercise, yoga, Pilates, walking, running, bicycling, Tai Chi or Isometrics. Walking in particular is a great stress reducer and even a quarter mile walk has essential benefits for relieving stress and shifting perception.
8. Cherish each other. Remember that at any time someone you know or love might leave the earth unexpectedly so make the most of the memories you can create. Be cognizant that if it were you last day, would you be pleased with how you lived your final hours? Avoid criticizing and trying to fix things.
9. Meditate often especially prior to holidays or stress-filled events. Meditation is simply sitting still for 15 or 20 minutes, longer if you have time and emptying out your thoughts and breathing deeply to oxygenate the body. When you do that, you alter your brain chemistry. Meditation in this day and age is not only a spiritual modality but is viewed far and wide as an effective tool for well-being. It is used in post op and pre-op patients to accelerate healing and even the American Medical Association now attributes some form of meditation practice to living healthier lives.
10. Enjoy yourself! Many times we are so busy trying to make everything wonderful for everyone else that we forget to enjoy ourselves! These are your holidays too! Make the most out of the true meaning of this time of year. Immerse yourself in tradition and celebration and enjoy the rewards of all your hard work.
11. Be sensible! Most people are cheerful givers but the problem is as a society we OVERSPEND every year then stress over the debt we have amassed. This year consider making gifts or baking for those in your life. A handmade gift is far more cherished than store bought junk. Additionally be reasonable with your spending. Statistics show that the average amount a person spends on a friend or family member is between $50 and $65 dollars. Most would be happy with a gift costing half of that because it truly is the thought that counts.
12. Remember the reason for the season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holidays celebrated at this time of year are sacred holidays and material stuff is simply a gesture not the foundation of the holidays. The foundation is of course what you personally believe in and it is a time to celebrate gratitude with and for family and friends. Don’t forget the meaning behind all the holidays because a grateful heart is the center of joy.