If you’re feeling the pressure of the holidays, it’s time to slow down and relax. Though it sounds counterintuitive, stepping back from the hustle, bustle, and sugary treats, will bring more peace and contentment to this beautiful season.
There are several ways to do that:
Breathe. When we get anxious or upset, we tend to take quick, shallow breaths. This reinforces the flight-or-fight response, which causes us to feel even more anxious or upset. Taking long, slow, deep breaths breaks this cycle and is calming.
One breathing technique is to take twice as long to exhale as you do to inhale. For example, breathe in deeply for four counts and breathe out slowly for eight. Doing this for several breathing cycles will help you relax. It can also help you fall asleep.
Write it down. Sometimes our thoughts are so scattered, it prevents us from moving forward with important tasks. We become overwhelmed and do nothing. When your day feels impossible for whatever reason, begin by writing it all out as fast as you can. Don’t get caught up in spelling and neatness. This is simply to help you focus. When you get everything down, determine what is most important. If there are several “must do today” items, begin with the one that you feel most like doing. Once you take the first step, momentum kicks in and it’s easier to stay on course. Writing it down can also be helpful in the evening, so you don’t lay awake thinking about everything you have to do the next day.
Drink your water. This is one excellent habit that most people overlook, especially when life gets busy. Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, irritability, and more — none of which makes the holiday season merry and bright.
Water helps keep your body at proper temperature, remove toxins, lose weight, absorb nutrients, and fight off illness. It keeps skin looking bright and youthful, improves brain function, boosts energy, protects joints, and improves mood.
A minimum amount to drink is half your body weight in ounces. Adjust according to climate and physical activity. If you don’t care for the taste, try using one of those fruit infused water bottles and adding citrus, berries, cucumbers, or herbs. These are nice because you’ll also be able to track your intake. More water means less caloric or artificially sweetened drinks. You are eliminating beverages that don’t serve your health, and consuming one that does.
Do something you enjoy. Take an hour and hang out in your favorite coffee shop, solo or with a friend (early in the day, so the caffeine doesn’t mess up your sleep), or have lunch with your spouse or significant other. Hear a holiday concert or watch a favorite movie. Spend time alone outdoors or wherever you can simply be present and feel relaxed. There are many ways to meditate, and all of them are beneficial. Since you can’t do it wrong, give it a try and see what happens. As you work, play soothing background music. When sitting in traffic or waiting for the eternal train, listen to an audiobook, which is productive and may ease frustration.
Exercise. Exercise relieves stress, increases metabolism, and improves sleep quality. Choose activities that are fun and convenient, so you’re more likely to stick with them. Try dancing, Zumba, group cardio, yoga, weight training, running, swimming, ice skating. Walk around your neighborhood to clear your mind. Fresh air brings about new energy when you’re feeling lethargic.
Bonus: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with some protein, and limit holiday treats. When our bodies are not fueled properly, other calming techniques won’t work.
Keep in mind that this holiday season shall soon pass, and it’s meant to be enjoyed, not perfected. Cheers to you and yours.
Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at inkwellcoaching.com.