Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

The holiday season can leave many of us feeling more stressed than celebratory. From hectic schedules and traffic snarls to our anemic winter daylight, the pressures of daily life can add to our anxiety levels. Here are a few tips to keep in mind this holiday season to help keep the stress at bay.

Slow down at mealtimes. Make a habit of sitting down for meals and taking five slow, deep breaths before you begin. With each breath, think about something for which you are grateful. Conscious breathing can quickly help you relax and improve your ability to effectively absorb vital nutrients from your food.

Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Take advantage of those errands this holiday season to get your exercise. Aerobic activity such as brisk walking reduces stress and improves mood and energy. Aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking, most days of the week.

Get your beauty rest. Our bodies naturally seek more sleep through the winter. A good night's rest optimizes your body's natural production of growth hormone to help you burn off the holiday sweets.

Don't skip meals. Hunger is interpreted by the body as stress, and our bodies respond by producing cortisol when we go for more than five or six hours without food. Cortisol increases blood sugar and provides a quick burst of energy, but can also lead to negative changes in the body like hyperglycemia and higher blood pressure. Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand when a meal is not an option, and you'll avoid the cortisol rush. Try a piece of fruit and handful of walnuts to keep blood sugar levels balanced through the day.

Swap out the caffeine. Especially after noon, caffeine jangles the nerves and sabotages our efforts to get restorative rest. Relaxing teas like lemon balm and valerian root can help you unwind after a busy day.

By incorporating a few of these suggestions for this time of year, your days may be a little merrier, brighter and healthier this holiday season.

- Ryan Robbins, ND, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. Visit BastyrCenter.org for more information or call 206-834-4100 to schedule an appointment.

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