More Turkey, Less Stress - A Holiday Wellness Guide by Mandy
Mandy’s Stress Management Strategies
Stress during the holiday season is inevitable. Allowing stress to negatively impact your health is not. When you feel the stress taking hold, ask yourself these questions: Is this stress good? Is the situation causing stress something I want to work through and see the other side of? Is this bad stress? Is the root of the stress something I can let go of and decline or do another way? Maybe you’re considering planning a New Year’s Eve party to kick off 2015 with a bang but your kids were born on either side of Christmas so you’re already planning two back-to-back birthday parties. Perhaps the New Year’s Eve party could go? Maybe the holidays bring stress of financial burden. Would you consider telling your family and friends you plan to shake holiday gift giving up this year with homemade gifts, crafts, meal sharing or quality time?
Regardless of the source of your holiday stress or your ability (or lack thereof) to change plans or traditions, managing stress does not often come easy. Learning new strategies and implementing them can take time and dedication. It’s a practice, same as you practice meditation or yoga or even parenting. With practice, stress management strategies can be incorporated into your daily rhythm and bring you emotional and physical peace.
Here are some stress diffusing tips I’ve been practicing recently:
1. Exercise regularly
You know it’s true, you’ve heard all the amazing benefits of regular exercise: feel better, sleep better, boost mood, and manage stress. While a solitary workout will improve acute sensations of stress, regular workouts have the potential to give you daily rushes of feel good hormones that bathe your nerves and increase your ability to soothe and cope with stress. Regular exercise can be as simple as a daily 20 minute brisk walk or as intense as meeting with a personal trainer once a week. Investing in a personal trainer can help you establish an exercise routine and give you accountability in completing it. I’ve been working out with a trainer once a week for six months and regularly been exercising for the first time in a decade! I needed that encouragement to do something good for myself. I understand it’s not as easy as it sounds!
2. Sleep more
If stress is ignored it can wreak havoc on sleep cycles. Sleepless nights can be an all too familiar event during times of peak stress. Adequate sleep and/or increased sleep has been shown to help the body adapt and handle stress. Go to bed early when feeling stress. Make an intentional decision to unwind from your day at a certain time of the evening and hop into bed earlier than usual. Even if you know you’ll be unable to actually sleep earlier read a good book, listen to calming music or just enjoy the quiet and solitude. Sometimes I go to bed right after I tuck the kids in at 8 pm! (Remember it’s important to unplug from electronic devices at least one hour before you intend to sleep.) If you can, push your morning events an hour out and enjoy a short sleep-in a few days a week. If you can… nap! I’ve never been much of a cat napper but recently I’ve enjoyed what I call “horizontal time”- a 20-minute period in the afternoon where I pause my life and lie down for a moment. I can feel the increased blood and oxygen flow into my brain and rise feeling good about giving my body a moment to find balance.
3. Massage and Acupuncture
Sometimes my stress load feels so elevated that my normal day-to-day stress management strategies don’t do the trick. In this case, I know I need something stronger to bring me back to baseline. This is when I reach for acupuncture sessions and bodywork like massage therapy. Sometimes I need regular treatments for a period of time to be able to maintain my baseline then I can taper off as the stress changes and continue with my maintenance sessions of once or twice per month. If you find your day-to-day stress busting strategies are becoming less effective as your stress increases, consider acupuncture and massage therapy.
The bottom line is being proactive about stress management is important to your health and well-being. With practice, you can sail through stressful periods of time, such as the holidays, with grace and fulfillment. Remember to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. You will be a more effective parent, partner and friend in doing so!