How to Have Less Stress in the Holiday Season
A Whirlwind of Activity
I don’t know about you, but this Christmas season has been stressful. Oddly, I’m not entirely sure why. I can’t pinpoint the culprit. But I knew I had to start considering ways to relax when my chiropractor said I may need to stop taekwondo and take up yoga and mediation because I was way too tense in my back. It didn’t help that the knots in my back are so bad that my arms actually tingle and go numb sometimes. Yeah. Not good.
I know enough about physiology to know that carrying intense stress isn’t healthy. It may not always show in obvious ways, but it can do damage to my body in ways I can’t see right now. And I don’t want that.
So, it’s time to let go and figure out some ways to release the tension. Here are some things I’m practicing this holiday season to start that process.
I love essential oils. So, it was somewhat natural that I turned here first. Essential oils are adaptogens, meaning they help the body adapt to its needs at the time. Adaptogens are really useful, and help your body deal with stress.
My favorite place to get essential oils is Eden’s Garden. They are not a network marketing company and don’t require any commitments or monthly autoships. They also have great prices and beautiful packaging!
Typically I rub the essential oil (often without a carrier oil – because I’m too lazy to mix the two) onto my wrists and behind my neck. A carrier oil will help the oil last longer though, and some oils (considered “hot” oils, like Cinnamon) need to be diluted some so they don’t create a burning sensation. Eden’s Garden essential oils come with instructions and ideas for use. Or you can purchase any number of books online (or just search Google).
Lavender is probably the most famous essential oil, and with good reason. One of its best and most touted uses is as a stress and anxiety releasing oil. According to some studies, inhaling lavender leads to a reduction in stress and anxiety. It’s very calming and helps you to relax. Another study showed that the healing properties of lavender entered the bloodstream five minutes after rubbing it into the skin, making this a fast-acting way to reduce agitation, anxiety, and tension. This one is always in our home because we use it for just about everything.
Jasmine is an essential oil that has been studied and shown to be incredibly calming. Inhaling it helps transmit messages to the brain that control the emotions, helping with stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue (among other things). I love the smell of jasmine. Not surprisingly, it’s a scent used in many women’s (and men’s!) perfumes.
Frankincense is another favorite of mine. It’s no accident that it’s included as one of the three traditional gifts that the astrologer-priests gave to Yeshua. Frankincense is known to have calming qualities and is sometimes used for treating depression and anxiety. It’s also great for meditation (it’s used in many churches for this reason).
Other Oils to Try
Ylang Ylang – for calm and peace
Clary Sage – increases dopamine and lifts mood
Orange – uplifting and refreshing
Blends to Try
There are lots of blends that are helpful, too. Blends are nice because they’re premixed blends of different oils (sometimes with a carrier oil to help them spread and absorb). The ones below are some of the options at Eden’s Garden that I like.
Aligning – restores balance and calm
Anxiety Ease – as it says, eases anxiety
Stress Relief – helps to reduce stress
Bee Happy – one of the kids blends that is cheerful and uplifting
Yoga & Pilates
I’m a mom, and I’m a teacher. I get up at 4:30am so I can get to school by 6:30am and have a little quiet time before my juniors and seniors arrive. So, needless to say, I don’t have a lot of time to work out. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve transitioned from more intense (lots of jumping and pounding and exhausting) workouts to ones that are intense in other ways. I love pilates and yoga and usually alternate between the two.
In the past I’ve been too impatient with myself to meditate (and it sounded weird). I get bored sitting there doing nothing and end up thinking of a million other things I could be doing instead of “wasting” time sitting quietly.
But, recently I’ve started to realize there’s a restorative and calming power in sitting quietly. I’ve also learned that it’s okay if it takes a little bit to get my mind to be less hurried. Interestingly, I learned this in my taekwondo class!
If you haven’t tried this before, this is what I do (and I’m sure there are many ways to do this, but this is my “beginner’s practice”): I sit comfortably, usually cross-legged (but not all bunched up and tight), or in shavasana (laying on my back on the floor). Then I spend 5 minutes inhaling deeply through my nose, bringing air all the way into my lungs imagining it going all the way to my pelvic floor. Next I exhale through an open mouth to allow all the toxins to leave. Sometimes I count to help myself focus – 4 counts in, hold for 2 counts, and 6 out. If my thoughts wander to all the things to-do, I acknowledge the thought and let it go, returning my focus to my breathing.
There are lots of apps out there that can guide you through different meditative practices. Each one is a little different, so try it out before you pay for it. Right now I’m using Meditation & Relaxation: Guided Meditation by Fitness22 (Apple and Android).
Prayer & Journaling
Some people prefer prayer to mediation (or a combination of both). Prayer can be a wonderful way to identify what is weighing on you and release it to God. And for many people, that’s enough.
However, I know that I can do that a million times a day, and sometimes I am still tense. Maybe that means I’m not really letting go. Maybe it means that my body has been trained to be tense.
Regardless, I do find it helpful to journal prayers about things that are on my mind. There’s something soothing about putting words on paper. It’s a wonderful to process. And I find that when I’ve written it (as opposed to just voicing it in an audible prayer) I can stop thinking about it as much.
Turn Off the TV
I’m a news junkie. I watch the local news in the morning as I get ready, and I watch several news programs in the evening as I prepare dinner and get ready for bed. I’d imagine this probably contributes to my stress. So, for a while I’m going to try and detox. I can get my news from reading and the weather from one of the 3 apps I already have on my phone (why 3? I have no idea).
There is so much negativity, and so many things that frustrate me on the news. I don’t ever really think that it contributes to my stress level, but if it’s playing in the background all the time, I’d imagine it’s soaking into my subconscious at least a little.
Instead I’ve been listening to instrumental music on Spotify and Google Play. Right now it’s Christmas music, but later I’ll probably choose spa music or something similar. That’s one thing that’s great about playlists, especially on Spotify – there’s something for every mood.
Find What Works for You
Everyone is different, and everyone needs something different. Maybe you’d rather curl up with a cup of coffee or wine under a cozy blanket on the couch (I would totally do this). Or maybe you need time outside to enjoy nature.
I know that I need to find ways to decompress and remember to breathe. Especially around holidays when things are busiest. I love this time of the year, and I suspect that my stress goes beyond just the hustle and bustle of Christmas.
Finding ways to relax and let the tension go is essential. What are your favorite ways to destress?
* Disclaimer: Please know that I’m not a doctor or in any way medically trained. If you haven’t used essential oils in the past or aren’t sure how you’ll react, you should talk to a medical professional first. You are responsible for your own body. This is what I use and love. Your situation and body are unique and may respond differently (especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have a previously known medical condition).