No matter what holiday you are celebrating this season, there is no doubt the holidays come with their share of hustle, bustle, and stress. From overeating at a holiday party, to driving long distances in snowy weather with restless children, down to buying gifts we may not be able to afford in this economy.
There are a couple different types of stress. One called Eu stress, is a stress which is healthy for us! Such examples of this is the excitement of opening a gift, a good hard workout, or knots in your stomach before you see your beloved significant other. This type of stress makes us feel good and helps us to grow as individuals. Distress, the unhealthy type of stress, is the stress we want to keep to a minimum because it can lead to chronic disease, cardiovascular issues, and tends to inhibit our lives. Examples of distress are being stuck in traffic, your mortgage payment is over due, or you don't have the money to buy your family a nice gift this year.
Distress causes our blood pressure to rise, our heart rate to go up, our blood sugar to spike, and stress hormones to rage through our body. If this happen often enough, this creates major health problems and it also packs on calories!
Here is a survival kit to limit your Holiday distress this season!
1. Pack your holiday survival kit. LITERALLY! Whether you are traveling near or far, traveling takes it's toll on our body, never mind the road rage this time of year!
- Pack a towel. (Roll it up and put in the small of your back if you are driving far, to create support for your low back and prevent pain)
- Water (staying hydrated = less pain and muscle tension)
- Fruit and healthy non perishables. (so you don't stop for fast food and your blood sugar stays stable)
- relaxing feel good tunes (taps into the reward circuits in your brain, helps with feel good hormones)
- Almonds. (These have extra magnesium, a natural muscle relaxer)
2. Avoid triggers of stress. Think your day through. If traffic stresses you out, plan to do your shopping at low traffic times of the day. If being around certain family or friends during a holiday get together is particularly stressful, have a plan on how to manage your discussions or have an outlet. If you don't like crowds of people, shop online or plan events more towards the evening to avoid crowds.
3. Drink more chamomile tea. This naturally decaffeinated tea helps to calm an upset stomach and settle your nerves. (do not take if on anti-coagulant medication). Add a little cinnamon and honey and you still have a nice holiday drink!
4. Moderate caffeine intake. Excess caffeine from coffee, chocolate, and soft drinks increase heart rate, blood pressure, and mobilize lipids from your fat cells as well as increase blood glucose levels. If you remain sedentary while consuming this, you are allowing for these sugars to get easier stored in your adipose tissue, aka you gain weight easier!
5. Try L-Theanine supplements, a natural anti-blues and anxiety remedy. L-Theanine is an amino acid derivative of glutamic acid, which is believed to affect the levels of Serotonin in your brain as well as your GABA receptors. "Say what????" Basically, it helps regulate your calming brain chemistry!
6. Take time to enjoy the holiday! Yes this seems like a no brainer, but don't forget to take each day as it comes and each experience at a time. It's easy to get wrapped up in all the chaos. Ignore the humbugs and their negativity, enjoy that holiday dinner with family and friends you don't get to see often!
7. Yoga and Meditation. Both of these practices are focused on being in the moment, positive mind control, and tap deeper into the energy of the body to initiate your "wine and dine" nervous system, otherwise known as your parasympathetic nervous system. This nervous system down regulates your heart rate, blood pressure, brings more blood to your vital organs, and decreases circulation of stress hormones. This is the opposite of your "fight or flight" nervous system call the sympathetic nervous system, which does the exact opposite!
8. Make a "Thankful" list and carry it with you. The holidays can be difficult for those grieving, unemployed, or are in any unfortunate experiences surrounded by negativity. It's hard to remember all the blessings in our lives. Write down what you are thankful for and all the positive things in your life so when you have a bad moment, you are able to pull this out and help lift your spirits.