Stress Free Holidays

The “happiest time of the year” is here. The Holiday season brings family members together, smiles to little ones faces, parties and celebrations galore. However, tagging along with all the fun is the seasonal stress of the endless to-do lists; shopping sprees for loved ones, preparing for parties, in-town relatives and keeping up with family customs… it can all take a toll on your health if you don’t slow it down. Stress. What you may not know about this nasty five-letter word is that the amount of stress that lingers in your life is not due to the destined circumstances brought upon you, but rather how you react to each situation. Stress and anxiety not only drain us mentally but also make us more vulnerable to colds, flus and multitude of chronic or life threatening diseases. As if that isn’t bad enough, stress hormones that are produced when we are in a negative mental state are linked to excessive belly fat and may hinder us from losing inches around our waistline. Because of this, stress management should become a part of our daily lives within our health and fitness routine. Without it you may be keeping yourself from reaching your goals. Enjoy and exercise these helpful tips in your life to release your stress and retain your health. Sweat off the Petty Stuff Cardiovascular activity has been proven to lower levels of stress, release anxiety and even help with depression. Get your heart pumping by doing something you enjoy. Don’t add on the burden of doing an activity you dread like running aimlessly on a treadmill, if that’s not your forte. Instead, take a bike ride with a loved one in the cooler part of the day or strap on your hiking boots and get out into nature. Whatever it is, try to keep your heart rate up to the point that it’s difficult to hold a conversation and sweat your worries away. Rest in Savasana whether you take a full yoga class, or simply lay your yoga mat down in your living room, taking a few minutes in this age old pose will help calm your nerves and clear your mind. Just simply lay on your back with your palms to the ceiling, your heels together and your feet relaxed to the sides. Focus on your breath, and try to clear your mind of everything, yes everything. In our crazy lives, this can be the most difficult yoga pose of all, but once you have mastered it, it is divine. Mandate a Mantra Devise an affirmation — a short, clear, positive statement that focuses on your coping abilities. For example, “I feel calm. I can handle this.” Continue to repeat this statement and soon your words will become your wisdom. You will begin to feel calmer and gain the strength to handle the situation. The mind and the body are interlinked in magnificent ways. Start reassuring the mind through these affirmations and the stress in your body will also begin to drift away. Jot it Down Writing provides perspective. Putting ink to paper can help you realize that an issue may not as bad as you had once thought. Thoughts can linger in our minds, expanding overtime. Jotting down your emotions can help relieve you of the burden of caring around those negative thoughts. Put it in writing and then let it go. No Means No If you consider yourself a people pleaser and take on the daunting task of making everyone else happy all the time, you may find that at the end of the day the only one not happy is yourself. Trying to do everything is a sure fire way to serious stress. Be clear about your limits, and think about your health before committing too much.  An easier way to get out of adding more to your schedule is letting the person know that you would love to help out but you just have too much on your plate at the moment. Make sure to let them know to ask you again if something comes up in the future when you may be free. They should understand and you will have one less to-do item to worry about. Focus on the Positive Happy people are healthy people. Studies have shown that people who are happy, lively, calm or exhibit other positive emotions are less likely to become ill when they are exposed to a cold virus than those who express few of these emotions. People aren’t born positive and positive people aren’t just lucky individuals who happen to have perfect lives. Being positive is a choice of reaction and a choice of focus. To be a positive person it is imperative to seek out the silver lining in every situation and to be truly grateful for the good things that come your way. So slip on those rose colored glasses and cheers to your health. Smell the Roses… … and lavender, basil, chamomile, eucalyptus, and peppermint. All these scents help to calm the mind and put you in a tranquil state. Using essential oils throughout your day can help raise your spirits and lower your blood pressure. Dab a couple drops of peppermint into carrier oil, rub into the palms of your hands and breathe in deeply. Place a few drops of lavender into a nice hot bath and soak your worries away. Put some chamomile in your dryer with your sheets and sleep soundly at night. A little dab’ll do ya a lotta good. My favorite brand is Aura Cacia. Lend a Hand This is the prefect time of year to help those who are less fortunate. Many people don’t have family, money for presents under their tree or even a warm meal on Christmas day. Check out the organizations in your area to see how you can help. Drop a few coins in the Slavation Army bucket, pick out a Christmas Angel off the tree at the mall and buy a gift for a boy or girl or volunteer at a soup kitchen to spread your Joy to others.  In the end, you will be the one feeling blessed and that to-do list won’t seem so imperative anymore. Tea Time Chamomile, Passionflower, Skullcap, and Kava Kava are wonderful teas that will sooth your taste buds and your mind. The warmth and properties of these flowers and herbs is the perfect combo to unwind and release any stress you may have. Try steeping one teaspoon per cup of boiling water for at least ten minutes to receive the full benefit of these incredible herbs. Try my favorite brand that has inspirational quotes on each tea bag.  Sip to a stress free day. That’s a Stretch Muscles tighten up during the day and especially when we are feeling stressed out. Stretching loosens muscles and allows oxygenation. Try a yoga position called child’s pose to lengthen your back muscles after a long day of sitting at a desk. Kneel down on a rug or mat, sit back on your heels, lean forward extending your arms out in front of you with your palms down and relax your head down to the ground, touching your forehead to the floor.  Hold for one to three minutes as you breathe deeply. Another amazing way to release muscle tension is through a foam roller which helps myofacial release. Gaiam has them on sale for the holidays too! Give it Up To God that is. This is the first thing I try to do. Let go of my worries, because ultimately I know I am not in control. This is a Bible verse I go back to every time I feel the anxiety creeping up on me. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. ” –Proverbs 3:5-6. I inevitably feel better knowing that someone else is looking out for my best interest allowing me to let it go. I also try to remind myself often what makes this time of year so special; it’s not the lights, the presents, the tree or even the family, but rather the celebration of Christ’s birthday which is the biggest gift we could ever recieve. There is nothing stressful about that! 🙂 Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!! Lauren McBride

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