The holidays are a time to enjoy family gatherings, delicious meals, and home decorating. Nevertheless, it is easy to get over-involved in the holiday chaos and end up stressing over things that are meant to be pleasant.
Each year, there is an increasing amount of studies that show how people are stressed, and even sad, during the holiday season.
The most common causes of stress are the additional demands on time and money that are created during the holidays. There never seems to be enough time to accommodate all the traditions and activities while still maintaining your normal life. The cost of traveling, buying gifts and decor, or preparing your home for visitors also adds up rather quickly. Family situations are another factor that add to increased stress levels during this time of year. Deciding where to celebrate the holidays or who to invite can be a struggle in itself.
This stress can lead to many negative consequences, including, but not limited to:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Trouble sleeping
While holiday stress may seem quite inevitable, don’t worry, there are many ways to naturally cope with holiday stress! Methods such as acupuncture, massage therapy, aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, and exercise can all contribute to a stress-free time of year.
Using tiny needles that penetrate the skin, acupuncture stimulates certain points on the body to alleviate pain or to help treat various health conditions. One study has discovered that stress hormones were in fact lower in patients that received acupuncture. This natural remedy has been known to reduce stress in patients after just one session! For most individuals, acupuncture is an extremely pleasant and calming experience. If holiday stress starts to become a burden, consider acupuncture as a way to calm yourself.
Massage therapy can help you decrease your holiday stress on both physiological and psychological levels. In addition to significant changes in emotional states and stress levels, massage therapy has been shown to decrease heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption and salivary cortisol levels.
You don’t need an hour-long massage to achieve these benefits either. Multiple controlled studies found that these physiological and psychological changes occurred after 10 to 15 minute chair massages. So no matter how busy your holiday schedule is, you can easily make time for this de-stressing method. For enhanced relaxation, massage therapy can also be combined with aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy uses naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to help balance and promote the health of both mind and body. Inhaling the scent from the essential oils and absorbing them into your skin is believed to stimulate brain function and promote whole-body well-being. In fact, at hospitals, mental health, nursing and hospice facilities, aromatherapy is becoming increasingly popular as a natural alternative to treating anxiety, depression, and pain.
For relaxation, there are different forms of aromatherapy that can be used. The oils can be used as either massage oils or bath products. However you decide to use aromatherapy, this treatment can immensely help reduce your holiday stress.
Hydrotherapy, a naturopathic medicine modality, utilizes the therapeutic benefits of water at various temperatures and is meant to soothe, regulate, or stimulate various systems in the body. In addition to the calming effects of a warm bath or hot tub, constitutional treatments that alternate between hot and cold water temperatures can have profound effects on mood and stress hormones. This is because hot and cold treatments help enhance blood circulation throughout the body and brain.
Various hydrotherapy treatments can be performed by a naturopathic medicine doctor or by yourself at home in the shower. To relieve stress, try starting your shower at a warm comfortable temperature then slowly cool down the water to about 70 degrees and maintain for 2-3 minutes.
Yoga can help release a lot of stress and pressure. Yoga trains you to breathe using your diaphragm and allows you to utilize your whole lung capacity, which gives you the opportunity to breathe more effectively. Learning breathing techniques is the best way to take advantage of all yoga has to offer and help relax you even more during your sessions.
Yoga also trains us to listen to our bodies by being sensitive to each movement. This encourages us to exist in the present moment and to live in a more mindful, conscious, and connected way. Certain postures, such as forward bends and inversions, have calming effects. Postures that release the hips and shoulders are very effective in releasing emotional energy. Both types of postures are beneficial to your body during high stress moments. Consider trying these yoga postures if you are starting to feel stressed about the upcoming gatherings and festivities.
Meditation is a relaxation technique that has been used for many years. If practiced for as little as 10 minutes a day, it can be an excellent way to combat stress, especially when you’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. According to a 2014 study by John Hopkins University, meditation can improve psychological stresses such as anxiety, depression, and pain. It’s no surprise that mediation is becoming more popular among the public and health care professionals.
There are various types of meditation techniques, allowing you to choose the most effective to relieve stress:
- Guided - patients form mental images of places of things that they find relaxing.
- Mindfulness - patients learn to have an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.
- Transcendental - this requires less concentration. People repeat a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase, in a specific way.
Any type of exercise, whether it is aerobics, Pilates, or weight training can significantly help reduce stress. Exercising pumps up endorphins, allowing you to take your mind off things and improve your overall mood. Find an activity that you enjoy and stick with it! Exercising on a daily basis will allow you to take your stress out on something in a positive way. Exercising is especially important during the holiday season, not only to relieve stress, but to balance out the many seasonal treats you will be consuming.
There are many natural ways to cope with holiday stress that will help lead to a positive impact on your overall wellbeing. Any of the natural remedies discussed above can help you this year when it comes to combating holiday anxiety! We encourage you to try some of these tactics when things start to get hectic and invite you to share a comment below about what works best for you. Happy Holidays!
About the Author
Dr. Amanda Bose