Regardless of what winter holidays you celebrate and whether you love them or hate them they can be stressful. It’s barely December and patients are already coming in feeling overextended, over sugared, and stressed out. If you want to move through this season with more grace, ease and actual joy you may need to reprioritize self-care toward the top of your holiday to-do list. You will actually get more done if you are not running around like a stressed out manic elf. Enlist a friend or family member as a collaborator in this novel self-care scheme. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable. And heck, go get massages together while you are at it!
Self-care help for the holidays:
Add 30 minutes of sleep. Most of my patients don’t get enough sleep as it is and I get that big-eyed look of “you have got to be kidding me” when I suggest this. However sleep plays an important role in emotional processing and how we respond to everyday stressors. Simply starting your bedtime routine 30-60 minutes earlier can have a significant effect on your stress resiliency. Humor me and try it for 2 weeks.
Support your nervous system with herbs. There is a whole class of herbs called “nervines” that help smooth out the rough edges. Consider trying skullcap, lemon balm, chamomile or tulsi. You can find these as teas, tinctures and capsules in many independent health food stores or places like Whole Foods and Sprouts.
Eat mindfully. I’m not saying you can’t eat Aunt Sally’s Christmas cookies but check-in with yourself before reaching for that third delicious cookie. Are you eating because Uncle Joe is talking politics? Are you really hungry? Will this make you feel good or crash out and hour later? Is the short term pleasure worth it to feel crappy later? Mindfulness allows you to make conscious choices rather than engage in mindless consumption.
Go for a walk. Exercise, especially outdoors, will clear your mind and rev up your energy. From an acupuncture perspective, too much sitting injures the Earth phase, which affects our digestion, energy level, and even makes us more likely to gain weight. So get out and go for a hike!
Focus on gratitude. Researchers have discovered that gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine…the same neurotransmitter that the antidepressant Wellbutrin increases. Prozac works on the neurotransmitter serotonin…so does gratitude! According to neuroscience researcher Alex Korb (author of The Upward Spiral) you don’t even have to find something to be grateful for, the process of searching for it is sufficient! Take in a daily dose of gratitude and watch the inner shift take place.
Breathe. When we feel stressed out our breath automatically becomes more shallow and rapid. Shallow breathing tells the body to remain in a state of fight-or-flight. By breathing slow, deep, easy, and gentle, we rein in the stress response, protect the adrenals from exhaustion, and activate the self-healing (parasympathetic) mode. Try this breathing exercise: close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for a few moments and release your breath slowly through your mouth. Repeat a few times. Open your eyes and check in with how you are feeling.
Get acupuncture. Of course I am going to include this! Acupuncture is a powerful reset for your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (that whole fight-or-flight response responsible for the release of cortisol and adrenaline). Most patients leave my clinic feels deeply relaxed. Over a course of treatments this deep relaxation extends into a shift in how the body actually responds to stress. Now that’s relief! Acupuncture also works to resolve stress related illnesses such as sleep disturbances, digestive upsets, anxiety, depression, weight gain, headaches and more.
Need some holiday stress relief? Schedule an appointment today!