Every year, the holidays seem to creep up on us and cause lots of extra stress. Whether we’re trying to juggle extra social engagements, buying and wrapping presents, or getting those holiday cards out in time, it always seems like there’s never enough time to get everything done.
Holiday stress isn’t just annoying – it can also be harmful to your health. Stress can cause us to get less sleep, increase our blood pressure, reduce our immune system and even lead to an increased risk for diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems and more.
That’s why our therapists, Daniel Levi and Carol Gore, encourage their patients to make self-care a priority during the holiday season, and they collaborate with our other practitioners to help you make stress-free living a reality.
So how can you get through the holidays without taking on the added stress? Here are a few simple tips you can try anytime you start to feel stressed out this holiday season:
- Try Some Breathing Techniques
One of the fastest and easiest ways to calm your mind is to practice some simple breathing techniques. One you can try is called the 4-7-8 technique. Start by sitting up straight or lying flat on the floor and putting one hand on your belly and another hand on your chest. Take a slow, deep breath from your belly and inhaling for a count of four. Then hold your breath for count of seven and exhale slowly for a count of eight. Repeat several times until you feel your body completely relax.
Another method is to take long, slow breaths through your nose and count to three. As you exhale, relax the muscles in your head, face, shoulders and back. Imagine the tension literally melting off your body.
- Meditate for Five Minutes
Like breathing, meditation is free, easy and you can do it anywhere! To get the most benefit, sit up straight with both feet on the floor and your hands resting comfortably in your lap. Set your timer for about five minutes (or longer if you like!) and close your eyes. Don’t try to control your breath. Simply breathe naturally and try to empty your mind of all thoughts. Whenever a thought comes, let it float by and return to focusing on your breath. Even a few minutes of meditation should be enough to make you feel rested and refreshed.
When we’re stressed, we often hold that tension in our bodies, so some simple stretching can go a long way to letting go of worry and anxiety. One easy method is to stand against the wall with your feet about hip-width apart. Inhale, pulling your abdominal muscles in and pressing your back against the wall. Then exhale and slowly roll down towards the floor, first with your head, then neck, then shoulders until your hands are touching your feet. Let your head and arms hang for a count of ten and then slowly roll back up.
Another easy stretching technique is to clasp your fingers together and raise your arms over your head with your palms facing up. Breathe in and out for five breathes, and then lower your arms and roll your shoulders backwards and forwards a few times. Voila!
- Remember To Keep It Simple
It’s easy during the holidays to feel like you have to make everything look like it’s from a Martha Stewart catalogue, but remember, your family and friends will love you even if everything isn’t perfect. Instead of staying up late to make that homemade pie, maybe a store-bought one will be just as good. Don’t have time to giftwrap? Go with a gift bag. Don’t know when you’ll have time to write those holiday cards? Trust us, no one will think less of you if you send them out in January or skip them entirely this year. Here’s the general rule of thumb: If it’s causing you too much stress, find a way to simplify.
- Take Time for Self-Care
Usually, when we’re feeling stressed, self-care in the first thing to go from out to-do list. But when we make an effort to take care of ourselves first, we usually find that we have more energy to get everything else done. Taking time to see a therapist as well as making an acupuncture or chiropractic appointment is a great way of relieving the aches and pains that come with added stress, and can make you feel more centered and balanced to be able to deal with everything else on your plate.
Looking to reduce your stress in the new year? Sign up for Let It Go: A Course in Meditation, taking place Wednesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. from Jan. 3 through Jan. 24.