The holiday season is supposed to be filled with sugar, spice and all things nice. But what if that isn’t the case this year? For many people, the holiday season can produce feelings of stress and anxiety for multiple reasons. And if these stressors weren’t enough, we have the COVID-19 pandemic changing our traditions and challenging the health of our loved ones.
So, what can we do to relieve stress and anxiety, especially during the holidays? Check out these 8 great tips!
Around the holidays, so many feelings can surface and get the better of you. It’s important to take time and explore your internal emotions and identify what they are: sadness, joy, fear, anger, etc. Becoming better acquainted with your feelings will help you identify your needs. As a result, you will be able to release emotion in a way that works best for you, take action towards what you really need and relieve stress.
Acknowledge your feelings by thinking about what is going on in your mind and body. One example is through journaling, which brings us to tip number 2…
Journaling is great for overall stress reduction as well as self-knowledge and emotional healing. Go ahead and brainstorm! Write in detail your current feelings, thoughts related to a stressful event or simply vent. This can bring clarity to why you are experiencing those emotions and help you find solutions and recognize triggers.
When the body reacts to stress, it changes. The nervous system releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol preparing you to fight or flight from the stressors perceived as dangerous. Physical effects can occur such as increased blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.
When the fight or flight response kicks in, deep breathing is an excellent way to promote a state of calmness, soothe the nervous system and reduce these physical effects. It sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax which, in return, sends the message to your body.
Steps to Diaphragmatic Breathing:
Step 1: Find a comfortable seated position or lie down.
Step 2: Relax your shoulders.
Step 3: Place a hand on your chest and the other on your lower abdomen.
Step 4: Take a couple of normal breaths. On your last exhale, squeeze all the air out of your lungs.
Step 5: On your next inhale, focus on filling up your lower abdomen first. Feel the lower part of your belly fill-up with air under your hand. Once it’s full, start filling up your chest until you can’t fit any more air into your lungs.
Step 6: To exhale, slowly release the air from your chest and slowly work your way down to the lower abdomen.
Step 7: Repeat Steps 5 and 6 several times to get the best results.
Don’t worry if this deep breathing process is difficult for you. Taking deeper breaths than you normally would will have a calming effect and like anything, with practice, gets better.
Click on the image below to download the Steps to Diaphragmatic Breathing.
Physical activity helps the brain release the “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins. Additionally, exercise can have the ability to shift your focus on the task at hand and redirect your mind away from worrisome thoughts that may be causing you anxiety. One of our favorites is anytime, anywhere yoga! Even better, if you exercise outside, nature often produces a restorative property and provides a naturally soothing environment.
Emotions are influenced by your thoughts so if you are stuck thinking about things that are stressing you out, pay attention to your senses.
SIGHT | Try changing the color temperature and brightness of your room. Cool white (5000K) light bulbs simulate sunlight which can stimulate the brain to stay alert and awake. Have a lamp or two with warm (2700K) light bulbs to create a soft, warm and calming feel when you need to wind down. If you have a color changing light bulb, try green. It’s known for its soothing properties.
HEARING | Play soothing music or listen to the ambient nature sounds that are around you. For example, take a few moments to notice the bird chirping outside or the rain hitting against the windows.
SMELL | It’s known smell can induce memories and change your mood. Light a scented candle or diffuse essential oils into the air. Lavender and ylang ylang are popular calming scents.
TASTE | Sip slowly on hot tea and enjoy the warmth. Additionally, choose to mindfully eat your meal one bite at a time away from distractions like TV. Try to notice all the flavors of your food in each bite.
TOUCH | Even if you are quarantined, you can self-massage tension points on your body. Try the common acupuncture points or invest in a foam roller or vibrating massager to work out the knots.
Stress can get “caught” in the body and cause headaches to tense muscles. Sometimes you are holding stress inward and you don’t even know it. The goal of doing a body scan meditation is to find these points of tension and release them.
Steps to Body Scan Meditation
Step 1: Lay down in a comfortable position. Extend your arms and legs outward from the torso evenly with your hands facing upward.
Step 2: Take a few deep breaths to center your attention, then let it normalize.
Step 3: Bring your awareness to your feet first. Take a few moments to recognize how they feel and if there is anything noticeable. Do they feel any tension? At what points do they touch the floor? Are they cold or warm? Etc.
Step 4: After taking inventory on your feet, on your next exhale, visualize tension leaving your feet.
Step 5: Move up your body to your ankles and repeat steps 3 and 4.
Step 6: Keep repeating as you scan every part of your body until you reach the crown of your head.
As you are doing your scan, have fun and focus on smaller portions of your body. For example, instead of focusing on your whole back, try concentrating on it in sections. Take time to explore your lower, middle then upper back separately.
Click on the image below to download the Steps to Body Scan Meditation.
Most of us love that morning cup of Joe but if we continue to consume caffeine throughout the day, our bodies may become over stimulated and will resist relaxation. Bursts of caffeine can awaken our fight or flight hormones, causing nervousness, heart palpitation and anxiety.
Adding more things to your “to do list” or overbooking your calendar can add unnecessary stress, especially during the holiday season, and leave you feeling resentful, overwhelmed and frustrated. To reduce this stress, take a moment to realize what is best for you and say no if you need to.
Reducing stress not only helps you feel better, it can save your life! Did you know. Brain aneurysms are most prevalent in people ages 35 to 60, which also happens to be a very stressful time in life. Do yourself and your family a favor this holiday season and keep calm and don’t stress on.