Staying Zen over the holidays…and throughout the new year!
♪♫ Let’s talk about STRESS baby
let’s talk about stress and me,
let’s talk about all the good things
and the bad things that stress may be….
let’s talk about STRESS ♫.
Had to break out into an old school Salt n’Peppa favourite to help ease into this heavy topic. STRESS! As the holiday season is fast approaching you might be frantically trying to finish up a work project, get your Xmas shopping done, host dinner parties and go out to work events. During these highly busy times, our stress and anxiety levels can shoot through the roof and when it’s time for festive family dinners, the feuds start, and your patience level is not where it should be. Blowing up during the holidays is common because there’s so much buildup throughout the year and especially surrounding this busy time of year.
Not all stress is bad
Some stress is good and necessary but a lot of times our bodies are so overloaded with stress that it starts affecting our physical and mental well-being. We might not be fleeing hungry lions anymore, but at times our bodies and brains imagine we are! When we are stressed, our bodies produce more cortisol, a stress hormone, and we expose ourselves to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression as well as physical disorders such as migraines, back injuries, neck tensions and insomnia.
Find ways to release your stress
Every day, our immune systems are taxed by the detrimental effects of biological, chemical and physical stress. To avoid the damaging effects on our body, it’s important to consider the use of integrative modalities in combination with our current medical approach to stress. Mindfulness based stress reduction, acupuncture, massage, yoga, breathing techniques, meditation, hypnotherapy and using food as medicine are all evidence-based approaches that can be used alone or in conjunction with modern medical approaches.
It can all get a little overwhelming
Juggling parenting, work and social engagements can often be complicated. When there is an imbalance in these areas, our bodies and mental health suffer. If it all becomes too overwhelming, we can put ourselves at risk for a burnout. Remember that not everyone reacts the same way when they are in a burnout. For some it may be physical, others more mental, some may feel more tired physically, more depressed, have digestive issues, have more body pains and aches, feel more irritable, more negative, and less joyful overall. Stress will also often accentuate conditions that we are predisposed to. And the more chronic stress we have, the higher the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological and cognitive problems.
What can I do?
It’s not a one size fits all kind of philosophy. Some people will be more pulled towards meditation, while others prefer exercise to feel calmer. Here are a few suggestions to fit all interests and personalities:
- LESSEN SCREEN TIME
Shut off work emails after 8 pm and on weekends. All the blue light from cell phones and computers has been linked to higher cortisol levels, higher body temperatures and it slows down the release of melatonin. It can also contribute to anxiety and a depressive state. It might be tempting over the holidays to watch reruns of your favourite Xmas movies until 2 am but remember to stop watching television 30-60 minutes before going to bed.
- CHOOSE THE RIGHT FOODS
You might want to run for a chocolate bar or other sweet snacks when you’re feeling stressed or bored but this will only lead your blood sugar levels on a wild roller-coaster ride. Instead eat every 3-4 hours to keep your blood sugar levels in check – try nuts with an apple, popcorn, cheese, granola, vegetables/crackers with hummus, yogourt with berries. This will come in handy over the holidays and help you feel less bloated and less tempted to stuff your face with all the sweet treats. Be mindful of your alcohol intake as well as this can lead to more irritability and fatigue.
- MIND AND BODY
Exercise has been linked to higher serotonin and endorphin levels and as a result lowers stress levels. Getting some daily movement is key to helping circulate the blood and get the happy drugs flowing naturally throughout your body. When the noisy holidays are leaving you wired and irritable, go for a speed walk and get some fresh air. You don’t need to gravitate towards mind-body exercise like yoga and pilates because you heard it would help lower your anxiety and stress. If mind-body exercise is not your thing and it’s getting on your spinning bike or lacing up your runners for a jog that makes you happy then do that – do what speaks to you and what you know will make you feel good. Frequency rather than intensity is what matters most.
- BE CREATIVE
Meditation isn’t just sitting with legs crossed Om-ing and being at one with your breath for an hour. There are many little things that you can do to you help practice mindfulness such as eating mindfully – slow down, pay attention to the textures, the temperature, the sensations in your mouth. Watering your plants – pay attention to the colours and shape of your plants, the sound of the water and the earth absorbing it. Shoveling – pay attention to the snow on your shovel, how your body lifts the snow in your shovel, how the snow lands, the sound and feel of the snow beneath feet and your shovel. Colouring a mandala picture – take your time to follow the lines and contours and feel your pencil on the paper. There are many ways to turn a simple task into a mindful meditative moment.
Daily “Self-Care” Routine
Here is a daily routine that you can practice over the holidays to help you stay calm and serene so that you can enjoy what’s most important during the holiday season. And why not continue into the new year to start off 2020 in a fresh, rested and peaceful way!
- Wake up and before getting out of bed do an 8 minute morning meditation. You can use this one
or I highly recommend the apps Calm and Insight Timer which have tons.
- After your meditation, bring your knees to your chest and hold them as you rock from right to left. Then lengthen your legs and roll your head from right to left 10 times. Stop and circle your arms 5 times in each direction. Relax and point and flex your feet 10 times. Finally roll your feet in and out 10 times. Roll to your side, take a deep breath in and gently get out of your bed and begin your day with a smile 🙂 Say to yourself: Today will be a great day!
Oh and of course, throughout your day, whenever you feel stressed or anxious, always remember your breath. It will always be there waiting to be used.
Happy restful Holidays! ✨
Breathe, grow and let go,