With the Holiday season rapidly approaching, often people feel significant increases in stress levels. From back to back parties, presents to buy, food to cook, and houses to clean (I am not trying to add more stress, I promise!), people can become overwhelmed and stressed. As many know, stress can contribute physical pain. Pain manifests in many locations in the body, but has one thing in common, it is unwelcome. Here are tips to reduce stress so you can have your best and most relaxing holiday season yet!
1. Walking or Jogging
Walking, jogging, and running are usually associated with “trying to lose weight” or “getting back in shape”. However, in addition to the physiological benefits of aerobic exercise, it has also been proven to have multiple psychological benefits. Aerobic exercise such as daily walking can increase the number of endorphins the body produces, which can in turn help decrease stress and improve overall mood.
2. Plan Ahead and Take Time for Yourself
Studies show happiness has a direct correlation with stress. During the holiday season, the focus is often skewed to “buying the perfect gifts” and “rushing to get everything done.” With this way of thinking and living, people often become overwhelmed and stressed very quickly. As I tell my patients, to be able to take care of others you must take care of yourself, your body, and your needs. Planning ahead by making to-do lists, reserving down time for yourself, and staying organized will help keep stress levels down.
3. Deep Breathing
Herbert Benson, M.D. who studied at Harvard Medical School coined the term “relaxation response.” He stated relaxation response “is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress… and the opposite of the fight or flight response.” Many positive benefits come from eliciting this response, including but not limited to: decreased metabolic rate, decreased stress levels, as well as decreased blood pressure and heart rate. Taking 5-10 minutes per day to lay quietly with closed eyes, taking slow, quiet deep breaths to take a break from the outside stressors can be extremely beneficial.
There are many types of yoga, from exercises focusing on strength and core stability to classes working on balance and controlled breathing activities. Yoga is focuses on balancing both mind and body and is an excellent way to help your body to relax and relieve stress naturally. With stress reduction in mind, it’s better to begin with yoga aimed at beginners. The more intense “power” yoga may not be as beneficial if stress relief is the ultimate goal.
5. Get Enough Sleep
During stressful times, sleep becomes extremely low on the list of priorities. However, sleep has been proven to help decrease stress levels, improve overall mood and function, and help improve memory and brain function. To help decrease stress, increasing the amount of sleep you get each night to 7-9 hours can have many healthy, helpful benefits.
Take time for yourself to help keep your stress level low, so you can truly ENJOY your holiday season with friends, family and anyone else you are spending time with! If stress is an issue, come see a therapist to discuss chronic pain and what we can do to reduce pain when stress strikes!