Beat Holiday Stress with 12 Days of Health Tips
December 13, 2011
By Chiro One Wellness Centers
The holidays are just around the corner and along with them, the stresses and strains of frenzied holiday parties, shopping, and gift wrapping.
“Stress has become a fact of life, and for some, the daily norm,” says Katrina Ordonez, D.C., former Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Center of River North. “Although occasional stress can help improve our focus and performance, living with chronic stress can backfire by causing anxiety, depression, and serious health problems.”
Research shows that stress and unhealthy behaviors contribute to some of our country’s biggest health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. This stress can also build up inside the body and manifest as back pain, neck pain or headaches…making matters even worse.The upcoming holiday season is full of reasons for good cheer, but the added demands of the season can also stress the capacities of our bodies. Ordonez and Chiro One Wellness Centers recommend the following 12 Days of Health Tips to boost your health and wellness this holiday season and help you manage the holidays more healthfully and happily.
Day 1 – Think Positively
“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into positive,” said Hans Selye, author of the ground breaking work around stress theory. When optimism is hard to muster, cognitive-behavioral therapy, which trains people to recognize negative thinking patterns and replace them with more constructive ones, can also help reduce the risk of chronic stress and depression.
Day 2 – Get Out and Enjoy Winter Wonders
While modern civilization has made our lives more convenient, it has deprived us of an essential source of stress relief—connection with nature. Studies show that interacting with nature can help lessen the effects of stress on the nervous system, reduce attention deficits, decrease aggression, and enhance spiritual well-being. Getting out and enjoying the outdoor weather on a bright sunny day is also a great way to get more light which is especially important during the dark and dreary days of winter.
Day 3 – “Smell the Roses” for Better Mood
Aromatherapy, or smelling essential plant oils, recognized worldwide as a complementary therapy for managing chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and stress-related disorders, can help you unwind. Orange and lavender scents, in particular, have been shown to enhance relaxation and reduce anxiety. The smell of lemons and almond essence has been shown to lift the spirits of people with winter depression.
Day 4 – Relax with a Cup of Tea
During stressful times, coffee helps us keep going. To give yourself a break, however, consider drinking tea. Research shows that drinking tea for 6 weeks helps lower post-stress cortisol and increase relaxation. Habitual tea drinking may also reduce inflammation, potentially benefiting your heart health.
Day 5 – Laugh It Off
Laughter is one of nature’s chief stress relievers. Humor relieves stress and anxiety and prevents depression, helping put our troubles in perspective. Laughter can help boost the immune system, increase pain tolerance, enhance mood and creativity, and lower blood pressure, potentially improving treatment outcomes for many health problems, including cancer and HIV. Humor may also be related to happiness, which has been linked to high self-esteem, extroversion, and feeling in control. Read the funnies, watch your favorite comedy show, swap jokes with friends—all good strategies for not taking the winter, or life in general, too seriously.
Day 6 – Build a Support System
Humans are social beings and warm contact with those you care about has been shown to reduce stress. In one study, for example, a person asked to do mental arithmetic showed a smaller increase in blood pressure (an indication of how stressed she was) if accompanied to the task by a friend.
And for those of you on bad terms with friends or family, consider extending the olive branch by reaching out to friends and family this holiday season, both for your sake and for theirs. Relationships are key to health and happiness, especially for women. Women with low social support, for example, are more likely to increase blood pressure under stress. Loneliness may also contribute to stress in both men and women, also leading to poorer outcomes after a stroke or congestive heart failure. On the other hand, active and socially involved seniors are at lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Social support also helps cancer patients to boost the immune system and maintain a higher quality of life.
Day 7 – Employ the Relaxing Power of Music
It should come as no surprise that stores and malls play cheerful music around the time of the holiday season. Fill your house with whatever type of music you enjoy. Music, especially classical, can also serve as a powerful stress-relief tool. Listening to Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D major while preparing a public speech helps avoid anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure, which usually accompany public speaking.Singing and listening to music can also relieve pain and reduce anxiety and depression caused by low back pain. Group drumming also showed positive effects on stress relief and the immune system.
Music therapy can also elevate mood and positively affect the immune system in cancer patients and reduce fatigue and improve self-acceptance in people with multiple sclerosis.To help people deal with stressful medical procedures, music can help reduce anxiety before surgery. When played during surgery, it can decrease the patient’s post-operative pain. Aiding recovery, a dose of calming music may lower anxiety, pain, and the need for painkillers.
Day 8 – Calm Mind, Calm Spirit
In recent decades, many forms of meditation have gained popularity as relaxation and pain relief tools. Focusing on our breath, looking at a candle, or practicing a non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts and actions can help tune out distractions, reduce anxiety and depression, and accept our circumstances.
In cancer patients, meditation-based stress reduction enhances quality of life, lowers stress symptoms, and potentially benefits the immune system.Guided imagery, such as visualizing pictures prompted by an audiotape recording, also shows promise in stress relief and pain reduction. Based on the idea that the mind can affect the body, guided imagery can be a useful adjunct to cancer therapy, focusing patients on positive images to help heal their bodies.
Day 9 – Enjoy the Warmth of Human Touch
Just as the mind can affect the body, the body can influence the mind. Virginia Satir, a famous American psychotherapist, once said that people need 4 hugs a day to help prevent depression, 8 for psychological stability, and 12 for growth.
While asking for hugs may not work for some, massage can help us relieve stress and reduce anxiety and depression. Massage has also been shown to reduce aggression and hostility in violent adolescents, to improve mood and behavior in students with ADHD, and to lead to better sleep and behavior in children with autism.Massage has other therapeutic properties, as well. Regular massage may reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension and may lead to less pain, depression, and anxiety and better sleep in patients with chronic low-back pain. Compared to relaxation, massage therapy also causes greater reduction in depression and anger, and more significant effects on the immune system in breast cancer patients.
Day 10 – Give Exercise a Shot
To get the best of both worlds, affecting the mind through the body while getting into good physical shape, try exercise. In one study, a group of lung cancer patients increased their hope due to exercise. Exercise can also reduce depression and improve wound healing in the elderly. Tai chi, which works for people of all ages, may enhance heart and lung function, improve balance and posture, and prevent falls, while reducing stress.
Day 11 – Be Charitable
Consider doing some volunteer work. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, volunteer work is extremely satisfying, showing that happiness does not necessarily involve making money. Rather, it often comes from feeling a comfortable part of the fabric of the society in which we live.
Day 12 – See your Chiropractor!
Doctors of chiropractic are experts in spinal adjustment and other manual therapies that can relieve the aches and pains caused by holiday stress. They can also provide nutrition counseling, exercise recommendations, ergonomic tips and other advice to promote good health year-round.No matter what stress-relief methods you choose, make it a habit to use them during the holiday season—especially if you feel too stressed out to do it. As someone once said, the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”Understanding who we are, knowing our major struggles, putting them in perspective, and taking action can help us deal with stress,” says Ordonez. “These strategies can also improve stress tolerance and help lessen the effects of holiday stress on our health.”