Holiday Cheer or Fear?

This holiday season has snuck up on me in a big hurry with the sudden transition to winter overnight. As our Halloween pumpkins were covered with snow, we were suddenly thrown into Holiday mode. As I sit to create my to-do- list, my stomach clenches, my breath gets shallow, my heart speeds up…How will I ever get all this done?!

Uggh, with holiday stress so pervasive, what’s a health conscious person to do to get through to 2015 with your adrenal glands intact? Read on and you will learn some simple techniques to keep your mind/body/spirit in relax mode so you can actually enjoy the holidays.

Sources of Stress:

Hans Selye, considered the grandfather of stress, defined stress as any event that causes change or demands adaptation. So under this definition, stress comes to us through weather changes, exposure to viruses, lack of sleep, more sugar, caffiene, and alcohol, less day light, to-do lists, family drama, feelings of nothing ever being enough, ie. falling for the trap of the perfect house, gifts, cards, etc.

Why should you care?

Stress literally has an effect on every cell in your body. The body is either in a relax, repair and fight off infection mode, or fight or flight, break down mode. You can’t have it both ways. Cortisol is the main stress hormone that your adrenal glands produce that governs your blood sugar, digestion, food cravings, sleep/wake cycles, and blood pressure. With chronic stress, the fight or flight never turns off, putting you at risk for diabetes, belly fat, insomnia, high blood pressure, just to name a few. Stress is additive and if you don’t actively remove it, it will build and you will get exhausted.

What can you do about it?

I invite you to consider the following ideas:

  • Mental/Emotional:Change your perception; reframe the holidays. Make decisions to do less, buy less. Take control in other words. Take the word should out of your planning.Set limits and make your health a priority. Set a bedtime and a screen time curfew. What you don’t get done, you don’t get done.
  • Physical:Breathe “ use any moment to practice breathing and mindfulness. Waiting at a red light and/or washing dishes are both good opportunities to practice. To turn on the relaxing side of your nervous system, practice breathing with your diaphragm or belly and make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale. Inhale for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds and exhale 7 seconds.Stretch “ yoga or just simply stretching while being aware of your breath is a healthy way to multi-task.
  • Nutrition:Stay away from sugar, too much caffeine and processed foods as they all influence cortisol and can deplete you of the feel-good neurochemical serotonin. Get more of these vitamins and minerals as they can be depleted during stress: Vitamins A,C,E, Vitamin B complex, protein, cholesterol, essential fatty acids and minerals. Eat a varied whole foods diet or supplement if necessary.
  • Environment:Maximize morning sunlight if possible and limit screen time after 9pm to help with sleep.Schedule regular exercise that is fun. Multi-task and exercise with a friend.
  • Spiritual:Practice forgiveness “ forgive others and yourself for old wounds. Letting go releases emotions from the body. Start the new year with a clean slate.Practice loving kindness meditation. Simply focus on your heart center and take deep breaths. Imagine someone or something you love. Send that love to yourself first, and to others in your life. This is a very powerful practice that takes 5 minutes.

Just pick one of these items or if you are ambitious pick one from each category. Make a commitment to yourself to honor your deepest values this holiday season. Everything else will fall into place.

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