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Helpful Hints for Holiday Stress Relief

Are you a Scrooge or a Santa?

As the holidays approach, are you starting to feel stressed, like you have a To Do List a mile long and you don’t know how you’ll get it all done?

How do you fit in all the holiday get-togethers with family and friends? Some of them you’ll enjoy and others you might want to skip, yet you feel obligated to go. Once again, full-blown holiday stress kicks in – though mostly self-induced.

Stress can be defined as any disturbance that triggers the stress response. Disturbances can be heat or cold, trauma, emotional reactions, toxins, etc. How we handle stress plays a major role in determining our level of health. The stress response is highly individualized and affects us all on different levels. What is stressful to one person may not be to another. It is not the stressor that determines the response, it is the person’s internal reaction. Stress is not always bad and can be healthy, IF your body is prepared to handle it.

Whether you realize it or not, you have developed a pattern for coping with stress. Unfortunately, most of us have found patterns that don’t necessarily support good health and probably make the situation worse. It may be dependence on chemicals such as smoking and alcohol, emotional outbursts, and other excessive behaviors like overeating, overspending, or too much television. Identify your negative patterns and eliminate them. Realize that behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight but keep working at it.

Holiday stress management can be greatly improved with changes in key areas:
• Use techniques such as progressive relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing to calm the mind and promote a positive attitude.
• Get regular exercise – physical activity releases endorphins (the feel good chemicals released by the pituitary & hypothalamus). Eliminate the notion that you don’t have time for exercise! This is one thing you need to make time for even if it is small chunks of activity at a time like 15 minute walks.
• Identify lifestyle factors and individuals which are a negative influence or cause you stress. Eliminate or minimize them. Prioritize and don’t over-commit your time and energy.
• If you have a To Do List, use it! Remove things that would be nice but not necessary, or move them to the bottom of the list. Cross off items as they are accomplished – that sense of accomplishment goes a long way toward stress reduction. Think about making it an “accomplished list” instead – way more satisfying!
• Decorate to accent your style, not to excess and not to impress. Pass on decorations that no longer fit the current occupants of the household. If you love it, use it. If you don’t love it, pass it on to someone who does. Do you really need new decorations? If so, then set a budget and stick to it.
• Don’t lose sight of the real purpose of the holidays. Try to remember that guests are coming to see you, not your house. It’s also okay to exclude individuals that tend to be negative and upset holiday gatherings. The one stipulation here is that if you do exclude less joyful guests, consider and be prepared for future fallout.
• Consume a healthful diet which provides nourishment and supports the physiological process. Eat a wide variety of whole foods (not processed or refined) for the greatest vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content.
• Use nutrition supplements which support the adaptogenic response and replace the nutrients lost during stress. Key nutrients are depleted faster at times of stress in the body’s attempt to adapt: Vitamin C, B5 and B6, Magnesium and Zinc.  Several Stress and Adrenal Supplements are available which contain these nutrients, as well as adaptogenic herbs to support healthy adrenal function. In Prescription for Herbal Healing by Phyllis Balch, she states adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, rhodiola, cordyceps, licorice, holy basil and ashwagandha offer short-term relief of symptoms of stress and long-term restoration of hormonal balances upset by stress.

In our office, our go-to stress relief supplement is Holy Basil and stress relief tea from Gaia Herbs.  Holy Basil is a super adaptogenic herb.  A popular general tonic, holy basil supports our bodies ability to adapt to stressful situations (homeostasis).  Adaptogens like holy basil, help to modulate cortisol, epinephrine, dopamine, and inflammatory mediators which are responsible for maintaining balance of all body systems and promoting health and vitality.

Lastly, part of the holiday season is anticipation. It truly is a balancing act to approach the holidays with joyful anticipation, without setting yourself up for disappointment. So anticipate the season with joy, but with a healthy dose of reality to help minimize anxiety. All the best to you and yours this holiday season!

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