Managing Holiday Stress
(AZ Networking News, Dec 2002/Jan 2003 issue)
Holidays can be stressful. Although a joyous time, it is a time of increased demands and commitments. Let’s face it, stress in an integral part of our everyday life. Although normal levels of stress can motivate and propel us to achieve great things, high levels of stress have a counter-productive affect on our immune system and health. When the body is under stress, whether environmental, physical, mental, or emotional, the body has the same physiological response. Chemicals are released in the body, such as adrenaline, epinephrine, and cortisol, which have a multitude of action, including, increasing your blood pressure, heart rate, and insulin levels. In fact, chronic stress has been linked to many diseases such as hypertension, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and anxiety.
It is vital to manage stress effectively during the holiday season to give yourself the best gift of all, the gift of health. By taking a wholistic approach to stress management during the holidays, you are sure to create more serenity within and with those around you. Assess and provide support in all areas of your life, including the mind, the body, and the spirit.
» Recognize stressful situations in your environment. Let your body be your guide. Whether you feel tightness is your shoulders or notice your breathing is shallow, your body will tell you when you are stressed. Once you have identified the stress in your environment you can utilize tools to reduce it.
» Monitor Your Thoughts. The interesting thing about stress is that our body’s response to stress is greatly dependent on how we perceive it. So, monitor what you are thinking when you are under stress. If you think something is stressful, your body thinks so too. Change stress producing thoughts, such as, “I have so much holiday shopping to do I will never get it all done”, to stress-reducing thoughts, such as, “When I take things one step at a time I feel empowered and know everything will all work out”.
» Stick to the basics. Good nutrition, sleep, exercise, and staying well hydrated is vital to your overall health. That means drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day, getting 8 hours of sleep per night, and eating a nutrient dense diet.
» Eat a well-balance diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fiber, legumes, and complex carbohydrates. Good nutrition is important. It can affect your energy level, your mood and provide you with the nutrients essential to health. Avoid highly processed foods and chemicals, such as caffeine, food additives and dyes.
» Avoid or significantly limit sugar. Sugar decreases white blood cells, which are one of the major defense mechanisms against infection. In fact, the more sugar you consume the greater negative impact on the immune system. So, limiting your sugar intake during the holiday has a profound and positive impact on your health.
» Support your adrenals glands with the proper nutrients. The adrenals gland plays a significant role in modulating stress. The adrenal gland makes stress hormones such as adrenaline, and when they are over-burden, hormone regulation is altered leading to feeling of fatigue and/or anxiety. It is important to nutritionally support the adrenals glands so they may function optimally. Therefore, include adequate amounts of vitamin C (found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, red peppers, and strawberries), pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5 (found in whole grains, legumes, broccoli, salmon, liver, and sweet potatoes), zinc (found in meat, eggs, oysters, tofu, and wheat-germ) and magnesium (found in nuts, grains, beans, and dark green vegetables).
In a stressful situation or environment it is important to remember the things that nourish your spirit.
» Breathe. Remember to breathe, slowing the breathe down can have a direct effect on lowering your heart rate and making you feel more relaxed. Try breathing from your lower abdomen for four counts, holding for two and breathing out for four. You can repeat this exercise four-five times until you feel more relaxed. Breath normal if begin to feel light-headed.
» Listen to Music. Soft relaxing music can nourish your spirit. Listen to any type of music that feels nourishing and calming. Music can assist you to create a space within filled with serenity and peace.
» Be in Nature. Take a look out the widow or take a walk outside. Being in nature, even for just a moment can shift your mind set and release tension.
» Laugh. Laughter is a great way to release stress and increase your outer and inner vitality.
» Mediate. Take time to practice sitting or moving meditation, such as tai chi, yoga, or Zen meditation.
Remember, the holidays are a time of celebration. Take a wholistic approach and support the health of your mind, body, and spirit. By managing your stress effectively this holiday season, you will allow more room for joy, health, and happiness.