The shopping…the gift wrapping…the traffic…it’s enough to make you want to scream! I look on Facebook and see how many friends are posting about their stress levels being sky-high and about how much they have to do. I talk with my friends and family about how busy their schedules are – and their kids’ schedules, too! – that they don’t even have a free minute.
It’s enough to make me stressed just hearing about it all!
While you may feel as if you’ve been swept up by a giant wave of obligations, commitments and expectations that you can never meet, I want to encourage you to stop. Stop pushing yourself. Stop letting the pressure sink in. Stop letting all the to-do’s ruin your Christmas spirit and crush your joy. This time of year is about spending time with those you love most. Your family, your friends, your spouse. It’s about reflecting back and celebrating the joys of the season, and enjoying some time together.
The biggest reason to back off is that all this stress takes its toll on your health. With such affects as weight gain, insomnia and depression, not to mention risk for heart attack and stroke, its more important than ever that you find ways to reduce your stress level immediately. But how? Finding time to carve out time for yourself can seem almost impossible.
I want to share with you 10 easy ways you can take take care of yourself and reduce your stress at the same time. And some don’t even take any extra effort!
1/ Eat Well – According to Dr. Mark Hyman, eating whole, real foods restores balance and reduces the effects of stress on your body. It only takes a split second to make the choice to eat a salad versus a burger. Guess which one will pay off more in the long run?
2/ Sleep – When you’re stressed, you can’t sleep. And when you don’t sleep well, your body doesn’t handle stress as well. It’s a vicious cycle that perpetuates and keeps you reaching for that bottomless cup of coffee, which only makes things worse. Make a point to get to bed early, shutting down electronics at least an hour before bed. It will help you have the energy you need to get through the day!
3/ Breathe – Just slowing down to breathe deeply can be calming and relaxing. Close your eyes, focus on your breath and just be still for a few minutes, even if you’re sitting in your car waiting for the kids.
4/ Exercise – Yoga is my exercise of choice, and it’s something you can do whether you’re in a class or in the comfort of your own home. While carving out time for a class isn’t always possible, a few poses are. Walking can also help release feel-good chemicals in your brain and help you battle depression.
5/ EFT – The Emotional Freedom Technique can help you to battle many things, especially stress. Using repetitive finger tapping on pressure points, this ancient Chinese technique combines acupressure with modern psychology to reduce cortisol levels and counteract the negative impact of stress.
6/ Essential Oils – My go-to for an afternoon pick-me-up, essential oils have aromatic, fragrant molecules that can actually pass through the blood/brain barrier, having a direct effect on the areas of our brain in charge of controlling feelings of stress and anxiety and even panic and depression. Rub a drop or 2 of lavender oil in your palms and inhale, or place in a diffuser and enjoy. Apply peppermint oil directly to your temples to alleviate a headache, and on the back of your neck to energize you (don’t rub your eyes!). I love DoTerra’s Past Tense to inhale when I’m feeling the pressure.
7/ A Cup of Tea – Red tea, or rooibos, is mostly caffeine-free and is known to have a soothing effect on the central nervous system and is a safe, long term herbal remedy for headaches, irritability, disturbed sleeping patterns, insomnia, nervous tension, stress, hypertension, panic attacks and even mild depression.
8/ Time in Nature – We typically spend so much time indoors that we forget how refreshing it can feel to spend time in nature. Take a walk down a wooded path, sit by a lake or ocean and drink in the beauty, or simple find a spot to ‘ground’ yourself and just breathe. It will connect you more to yourself and remind you that you are part of something much bigger than yourself.
9/ Time with Friends – If you can, carve out time to meet a close friend for coffee, lunch, dinner or another activity. If you don’t have time, simply pick up the phone and call – or even text. Connecting with someone close to you can help you to feel as if you’re not in this alone, and knowing that someone else cares for you helps to share the load.
10/ Prayer/Meditation – It only takes a few moments to say a prayer asking for help or guidance. In her book, The SuperStress Soltuion, Dr. Roberta Lee says, “Research shows that people who are more religious or spiritual use their spirituality to cope with life, they’re better able to cope with stress, they heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and well-being.” Faith attaches meaning to events and gives folks hope, which is the ultimate stress reducer.