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With razzle-dazzle and merriment, the holidays typically bring joy and celebration. Sometimes, however, it opens the door to unwelcome guests such as stress and depression. But, you can learn to de-stress and take care of yourself this year.
We’re making a list, checking it twice and gonna find out who’s nice (to themselves). Here are some practical ways to relieve pressure from shopping, cooking, decorating, cleaning and more shopping.
Eat, love, and exercise.
With deadlines approaching, kids screaming and relatives arriving, it’s easy to grab whatever comfort food is close at hand. Take a minute when planning holiday menus and include foods rich in complex carbohydrates, magnesium, and vitamins B and C to help lower stress and induce calmness.
- Sweet potatoes stimulate the brain to produce serotonin, a mood stabilizer
- Spinach and beets are rich in magnesium, which reduces stress and anxiety
- Avocados provide a good source of B vitamins to lower stress and boost mood
- Citrus fruits, which are plentiful this time of year, along with strawberries, bell peppers, brussels sprouts and cauliflower are go-to vitamin C foods; broccoli packs twice as much vitamin C as oranges to support the immune system and help regulate levels of cortisol, the hormone that the body releases when under stress
- Eggs, filled with an amino acid needed to produce calm-inducing serotonin, are a great way to start the day
Almonds contain high amounts of vitamin B, which also help the body manage stress; grab a handful or swap out for walnuts or pistachios
- Chocolate anyone? A square of dark chocolate contains healthy flavanols to release feel-good endorphins
A daily walk, particularly through quiet natural areas, relieves tension and increase calmness in two ways. It helps you get in daily exercise and allows your mind to rest with a walking or prayerful meditation. You may discover that just five minutes outside changes your entire outlook on the day. If you already have an exercise routine, don’t put it on hold during the holidays. Once you stop, it’s more difficult to start again.
Having family and friends in for the holidays may stress you out. Instead of rushing around trying to make everything perfect for their visit, slow down. Enjoy a board game night. Have deep, meaningful conversations. Bear hug someone you live with— child, spouse, roommate. Big hugs, not one-handed back pats, reduce your heart rate and cortisol levels to trigger warm, fuzzy feelings. Holding hands with someone you love can also make worries go away.
If not having family around depresses you, get together with friends. No friends around—then love on your pet. Stroking a furry friend can lower your blood pressure and stress.
Chronic stress impacts your physical, emotional and mental health. Get in the habit of practicing monthly self-care rituals to help improve your energy, mood and overall physical health. “”Me”” time is the best gift to give yourself.
Here are a few ways to pamper yourself.
- Start a daily gratitude journal, writing down things for which you are grateful
- Read a book or listen to relaxing music
- Meditate or practice yoga
- Get a massage, facial, mani-pedi or reflexology treatment
- Soak in a bubble bath or solution of Epsom salt and lavender essential oils
- Clear clutter from a drawer, your desk or a room to relieve stress and help you focus on tasks at hand
- Take up a hobby
- Be positive; hum Bobby McFerrin’s “”Don’t Worry, Be Happy”” song and take positive steps to balance your mind, body and soul
- Take a “”me”” day and do whatever you want
Unplug and get some sleep.
When’s the last time you got a good night’s sleep? Without concentrated efforts and consistent sleep rituals, you’re not likely to get one during the holidays either.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly. Follow a nightly routine by:
- Setting the room temperature around 69–70 degrees before going to bed
- Unplugging from screens—television included— for at least 30 minutes before bedtime; read a book, meditate or practice relaxation techniques to aid sleep
- Keeping consistent bed and wake times, even on weekends; try going to bed at 10 p.m. and setting the alarm for 6 or 7 a.m.
- Not hitting the snooze button; studies show that repeated snoozing makes you feel more groggy
Despite best efforts, if you’re having a difficult time during the holidays, talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. They can help you with coping skills to get through the holiday season.
Thibodaux Regional Health System’s state- of-the-art Wellness Center focuses on well- being through fitness, prevention, education and other wellness services.