Dr. Katrina Traikov ND

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Stress management for the holidays

The holidays can be a time of togetherness, giving, receiving, reflection, relaxation, and enjoyment.

There can also be a number of stresses and pressures associated with this time of year. These are very individual, and can range from feeling compelled to see everyone, to overindulgence, to an altered routine or challenging family dynamics.

6 Tips to help you get the most out of your holiday experience

1. Nourish yourself

If you’ve ever been on a plane, you know they always tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping anyone else with theirs. There’s a reason for this: it’s very difficult to meet someone else’s needs when your needs aren’t being met. Ensuring you set yourself up for success with the supports you need, and carving out time for yourself, even if it’s just for a short walk around the block, is vital. Take the time to experience something that you truly enjoy.

2. Set priorities and limits – let the rest go

What do you want to experience this holiday season? What experiences may fuel you and what experiences may drain you? We only have so much energy in a given day. Choose to spend your energy wisely in ways that fuel and nourish you. If you choose to participate in an experience that may drain you, setting limits as well as having firm boundaries is key.

3. Find your calm

Your nervous system can only be in one of two modes – “stressed mode” or “calm mode”. It’s like a light switch. One effective way to help shift your body to “calm mode” is to take 5-10 deep breaths. As you breathe in, your belly (not your chest) should expand (you can feel it with your hand while you are standing, sitting or laying on your back) or by feeling your back or stomach expand when you are laying on your stomach). When you breathe out, everything should return to normal. This breathing technique can take practice to learn, but can be very effective at putting us in a relaxed state. Other people find looking at images of baby animals, laughing at comics or a funny movie, or spending time in nature calming and grounding. Choose something that helps you find your calm.

4. Keep hydrated

It sounds so simple, but ensuring we have enough water throughout the day can be challenging, especially if we are not in the habit of drinking water regularly, or if our routine is thrown off.

5. Eat mindfully

Food can be used to fuel our bodies and minds, to achieve a goal, or as a pure source of enjoyment. It’s about being mindful of which choice you are making and how often that matters. Simply taking a few deep breaths, and tuning in to our body’s needs, or tuning into each of our senses (smell, sight, taste, sound and touch) before, during and after a meal can be helpful, along with noticing how our body feels before, during and after a meal.

6. Get adequate sleep in a dark sleeping environment

Sleep is how our body rests and heals. If we are not getting enough sleep, or our sleep quality is poor, we won’t be able to rest and recharge, or deal with the stressors that are thrown our way to the best of our ability. Also, if you can see your hand in front of your face in your sleeping environment, it may not dark enough for your body to produce adequate melatonin (the sleep hormone), which could negatively impact your sleep quality. Additionally, looking at blue lights such as those in phone, TV, and computer screens 2-3 hours before bed can also decrease your body’s ability to make melatonin and negatively impact your sleep quality.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous new year.

For more information, feel free to call, e-mail or come in for a free introductory visit.

Originally published in the Valley Naturopath clinic newsletter December 2013

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