Managing Holiday Stress
We all get a little crazy during the holidays. At least that’s what I tell myself so I don’t feel completely alone in my inner holiday chaos.
I seriously don’t think it’s just me though. Just yesterday I was pausing to read a “Lost Dog” poster at a four way stop and I got honked at!
It was a lost dog poster!!!!! I LITERALLY HAD NO CHOICE!!!
Anyway, tensions are high. We need to formulate a plan so we can approach January without losing friends or experiencing road rage (yes, I’m talking to YOU big, white Lexus).
Because I like to be super-helpful, I am going to divide this post into two parts.
- The first part is for my fellow geeks that like to learn a little about the WHY our bodies respond to stress they way they do.
- The second part is a fast-forward to WHAT we can do for those stressed-out souls who have limited time.
WHY (for my geek tribe)
Our bodies have responded to stress since the beginning of time.
If it didn’t, we’d be dead.
Our brains continually monitor for signs of danger even while we sleep. In times of stress or trauma, our brains instantly activate our bodies to prepare to protect ourselves!
Dangers in the prehistoric days were widely different than they are today. When a saber-toothed tiger would chase us, our bodies would prepare to either fight or run away. As you can imagine, these dangers were immediately life threatening.
Our nervous system continues to respond to present day danger in the same way: By releasing hormones that prepare us to fight or run away; however, nowadays the perceived threat tends to be long-term mental/emotional stress.
The physical responses are the same:
- Accelerated heart and lung action
- Flushing or paling of the skin
- Inhibiting digestion (you don’t need to digest your sandwich when you’re running for your life)
- Releasing fat and glucose to power your muscles
- Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
- Relaxation of bladder
- Tunnel vision
- And more…
Can you see how these responses would be helpful in a tiger attack?
Anxiety related health problems exist today because our brains perceive a threat, create the same physiological reactions, but the threat either never goes away (ex: work stress) or we are unable to physically deal with it (ex: getting a rude and a completely unjustified honking).
According to webmd.com, the 10 Health problems related to stress are:
- Heart Disease
- Depression and Anxiety
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Accelerated aging
- Premature Death (seriously?!?)
Slowly, but surely, stress will kill us.
WHAT TO DO (for my time-limited, stressed-out tribe)
- BREATHE: This may seem ridiculous until you understand the biology behind the tip. Here is the quick and dirty version: The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is divided into two parts: The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight-or-flight while the parasympathetic nervous system promotes the “rest and digest” response (Harvard Health Publications, 2016). For chronic stress, we need to find a way to cue the body into believing that everything is fine. How do we do this? We breathe slow and deeply… our bodies think we are all relaxed! It doesn’t know we are tricking it!!!! When we take deep, slow breaths, we can convince our ANS that everything is A-Okay.
- MEDITATION/MINDFULNESS: The most basic way to describe mindfulness meditation is bringing 100% of your attention to your breath. It means learning how to control your busy monkey mind and its crazy, stressful thoughts! Mindfulness doesn’t need to be difficult or stressful. After all, that would defeat the purpose! It DOES have to be practiced regularly to be successful. Mindfulness is a huge part of managing my own Anxiety and a solid part of my 90-Day Health Program.
- EXERCISE: I exercise for my physical and emotional health! I don’t know what I would do without it. The research suggests that engaging in at least 20 minutes of exercise can help with anxiety/stress reduction (Petruzzello, Landers, Hatfield, Kubitz, & Salazar, 1991). I’ve always thought that exercise “completes” the stress response by tricking my body into thinking it has gotten away from the threat! As your body learns to adapt to one form of stress (phycial stress) it will improve its management of emotional stress as well.
- NATURE: Spending time in nature can have some amazing health benefits. A study by Hansmann, R., Stella-Maria, H., & Seeland, K. (2007), showed that spending time in nature relieved headaches and stress significantly. The results were even better when the subject exercised in nature! Spending mindful moments surrounded by trees, digging in the dirt, or walking barefoot in the grass has a calming effect on your mind.
- JOURNAL: I encourage journaling in my life coaching practice. I am particularly fond of gratitude journaling and process journaling before bed. The journalling method that would benefit you the greatest would depend on your unique personal needs and specific kinds of stress.
- FOODS: Watch what you eat! Like it or not, certain foods can affect your mood. Learn to identify these foods so you can avoid them during the high stressed times in the season. Unfortunately, simple carbs (cookies and sweets… you know, the yummy kind) can increase the feeling of stress by spiking our blood sugar.
If you feel too stressed to relax, and you KNOW it’s affecting your health, your weight and your energy levels, then schedule a time to talk with me about how to reduce or cope better with the stress in your life.
Sign up for my NO COST 30-Minute Discovery Session and lets figure out what may be holding you back from your health goals.
If you share this blog on any social media platform, I will add an additional 15 minutes to your session! (That’s a $94 value)
Sooooooo, what are you waiting for? Share this blog below.. and lets schedule a time to chat!
I’ll pour the coffee….