Monday, December 16, 2013

Simple and inexpensive solutions to fight holiday stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year...

Or so the song says. For children maybe because all they have to do is eat, receive gifts and sign the occasional card for relatives, but for us adults who have to deal with nightmarish traffic, huge crowds, long shopping lists and party after party this could easily be the most stressful time of the year.

In our last post we talked about various holiday stressors, how the body reacts to stress and how this leads to weight gain. In this follow-up article we’ll share some ways validated by experts to help you cope with holiday stress. By staying relaxed, calm and energized you can actually enjoy time spent away from work and among the company of loved ones, and keep your waist trim in the process!
These methods are easy to do or find and won’t necessarily require you to wish Santa for a bigger bank account.

·         Spend a day out in the sun. This encourages the body to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin and provides required Vitamin D3, which is crucial for regulating some of our important functions like appetite, sleep, mood and behavior. It is also a natural way to ease Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, a debilitating form of depression caused by the change in season when days become short and cold. Get together with some friends and have a picnic at your favourite outdoor hangout or take the kids and pets out to the park. If you don’t have the time or patience for the crowd outside, opening doors and windows to let those golden rays in is a good alternative.

·         Savour the fragrance of citrus. A study done by researchers at the Mie University School of Medicine in Japan found that citrus fragrance reduced the doses of antidepressants needed to treat depressive patients. Citrus essential oils also do the trick if you need a quick pick-me-up at the office.

·         Get moving! Got a few hours in the morning to spare before work? Jog a few rounds around the block or walk briskly for at least a half hour. We all know it feels good afterward, but what’s the science behind? According to Dr. Ann Kulze, a respected expert on wellness and nutrition, the rhythm and repetition from walking or jogging has a tranquilizing effect on the brain, which translates to decreasing anxiety and improving the quality of sleep.

An even better idea is to combine the first three tips. Get up early in the morning when the sun isn’t too hot yet, walk briskly to the local supermarket or farm and get yourself a bag of oranges or lemons to eat or make into a delicious juice for breakfast.

·         Squeeze, squeeze. In traditional Chinese medicine, pressing the hoku spot or the fleshy area located between your index finger and thumb firmly for 30 seconds reduces stress and tension in the upper body. You can easily do this yourself whenever you start to feel overwhelmed from the long line at the checkout counter or while waiting for a cab that never seems to materialize when you need it most.

·         Find time for laughter. Alright, spending an hour (or a few) to watch Jimmy Kimmel or a Jim Carey flick on your couch might not be too practical if you barely have enough time to chew your food during meals but that doesn’t mean you have to wear a frown the whole day. Stuck in unmoving traffic or waiting for an appointment? Browse through a collection of photos on your phone and have a laugh-fest of your most silly, “what-was-I-thinking?” moments. YouTube on your mobile is also very handy in these situations.

Whatever difficulty we found ourselves in, it’s important to remember that the quality of life we live depends largely on perspective. Hey, even the rich and famous have their own share of feuds, divorces and bad hair days too. If you always find time to be grateful for every blessing that came your way and strive to see the good that has the potential to come out in every situation, you will find that these stressors we go through are merely ‘hiccups’ compared to the happiness we get from life. 

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