I don’t know if any studies have been done or research performed, but my guess is the holiday season is the busiest time of the year and a big bundle of merry mixed with stress. There is the shopping, the wrapping, the parties, and if you’re a parent you can add in all the extra school activities such as the annual holiday concert. A joyous time of year for sure, but certainly by Dec. 26th we are exhausted! Let’s try to do something about this festive overload before we are knee deep in holiday burnout. What can we do? We can learn to relax. Yes, I use the word “learn” because for many of us simply relaxing can require a plan and practice!
I recently had an appointment with my naturopathic doctor who has been helping me (successfully) with my menopause symptoms. After analyzing some tests I had recently, she said “You are too stressed. What do you do each day to relax?” Relax? Each day? Seven days a week? Well… I go for facials each month and get a mani/pedi every few weeks..that counts…but relax every single day? Do I have time for that?
She insisted that I needed to relax 30 minutes every day, claiming it is important for my overall health and well being. Now I was stressed about needed to de-stress! We spoke further about what I currently do to relax and also about new ideas that I could try to add into my life. According to www.mayoclinic.org, here are a few benefits of practicing relaxation on a regular basis:
Lower Blood pressure
Slower heart and breathing rate
Helps regulate blood sugar levels
Increase blood flow to major muscles
Reduces muscle tension and chronic pain
Reduces anger and frustration
Improved concentration and mood
Reduction in stress hormones
That’s all great, but now we need to understand How To Relax. First, give yourself permission to plan a pause in your day to schedule some relaxation time. Make this type of self-care a priority. Think of it as a healthy habit to add in your life. It doesn’t need to take long (although once you get use to relaxing you will not mind increasing it!). Start with 20 to 30 minutes or even two separate 15 minute slots (one in the morning and one at night). We all have different lives and schedules and therefore there is not a “one fits all” plan for relaxing. If you are not sure where to begin, then here are 10 tips for incorporating relaxation into your daily life:
Read - Grab a cup of tea or hot chocolate and sit down to read a book or a magazine. Extra point if you can do this in front of a mesmerizing, crackling fireplace.
Meditate - I’ve written before about all the benefits of meditating, and it should be no surprise that closing your eyes, and clearing your mind would be relaxing. I won’t lie…I’ve gotten away from meditation. Once my hormonal emotional swings started to settled down, and I was back to being my happy go lucky self, I didn’t feel the need to meditate anymore. But after speaking with my doctor, I realize that I still need to meditate because it is a quick and easy way to relax that only requires me and a quiet place. If you are new to mediation then I highly recommend downloading the “Headspace” app. It provides an easy way for learning how to meditate and guides you through each session.
Massage - There are many good reasons to get massages more often...stress relief is just one and you don’t have to wait until your next vacationing to get one. Take the time to look around and you will find there are places you can get a massage at a reasonable cost. For starters, my nail salon offers 10 minute back massages and I often get this done while my nails dry. There is a franchise (at least where I live) called Massage Envy where membership includes a monthly massage and discounts for additional services. Some yoga studios and chiropractic offices also offer massage therapy. In my neighborhood we have many foot massage places where you can get reflexology or even full body massages at very affordable prices. Not everyone enjoys a massage, but if you do then get one as often as you can afford.
Accupuncture - You will receive multi benefits, besides relaxation, from adding acupuncture to your life. I have been going for acupuncture quite a while now and it has helped me with my menopause symptoms and also when I had hurt my back. I am fortunate because my acupuncturist incorporates massage into the session. I am not certain how it works, but it has been very helpful for me and I always leave there feeling great!
Light Exercise such as Yoga or Walking - Yoga helps to clear your mind, breathe better, become happier and more mindful. You can take a yoga class, get a DVD, or find an instructional video on Youtube. 15 minutes of yoga each day is extremely beneficial.
Some studies have shown that walking for 10 minutes may be just as effective as a 45 minute workout for reducing anxiety and depression. Like all exercise, walking can reduce stress and fatigue. How and where you walk is up to you. I like to alternate between running and walking on my treadmill while I watch a mindless, entertaining show like the Real Housewives series. In the summer I enjoy being outdoors walking the boardwalk by the beach, or just venturing around the neighborhood walking and talking with my husband.
Take a Bath - pour in the epsom salts, add scented bath oils, and soak in some warm water. I read about this idea to create a simple home spa moment from a lifestyle blogger. It has now become a little luxury in my life. While I am relaxing in my tub, I will deep condition my hair, apply a face mask, read a book or simply pray.
Start a hobby - crochet, knit, paint, play piano, work on a puzzle…do what you enjoy. Expressing yourself through a creative method will bring you both happiness and calmness.
Write in a journal - Take some time out of your day to write about what you are feeling and what is happening in your life. Journaling helps to clarify our thoughts and feelings and provide a simple way to release your emotions. It is also extra helpful to include what you are grateful for each day.
Play- Just because we are not children anymore does not mean we can not play. Whether it’s chess, checkers, monopoly or Candy Crush, studies show that casually playing games actually helps to reduce stress.
Music - Music can be an enormous relaxation tool. It can soothe our minds, decrease stress and lower our blood pressure. Play it in the car, while in the shower, cooking, and exercising. For an added stress benefit..sIng along!
There are so many different ways to relax. Use these ideas as a place to start and then come up with your own plan. We need to make time to take care of ourselves, not just at the holidays, but all year round. Relaxing and therefore being less stressed will help to reduce the triggers that urge us to overshop. It also improves the quality of our life, our health, and our overall happiness. Remember, It is not selfish to take time for ourselves. In fact, it makes us even more capable of taking care of everyone else in our lives.