If you're like the rest of us, this time of year can be extremely stress filled and chaotic. Even if the holiday's are your favorite time of year, there is often still an overwhelming amount of commitments, expectations and STRESS! Here are a few of my favorite stress-relieving tips to help your mind and body stay healthy and at ease this season.
1. Breathe Easy
Breathing is one of the most natural, mindless things we do; but it is also one of the most important. According to uchealth.com, deep breaths have been shown to slow the heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure and lower stress. It is also said that a lack of oxygenated breath can lead to higher levels of anxiety and rapid shallow breath can increase chances of panic attacks.
Raising the awareness of our breathing can be one of the easiest ways to shift our focus and almost immediately calm our mind and body, and it can be done almost anywhere.
Try this: Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 5-7 seconds. Hold the breath at the top for 5-7 seconds and let out the breath slowly for a count of 10 seconds. Continue this cycle three times, or as long as you need to feel the stress and anxiousness leaving the body. As you exhale focus on your physical body releasing tightness and tension. Feel the shoulders soften away from the ears, the jaw muscle start to loosen and the face muscles relax.
2. Self Massage
Among other things, massage can help reduce anxiety, headaches, insomnia related to stress and help with digestive disorders according to the Mayo Clinic in their article on stress management. There are many forms of massage and massage techniques, but here are a few simple self-massaging techniques you can do at home in a matter of minutes.
Face Massage: take two fingers in a circular motion along the hairline from the center of the forehead out to the temples. Gently rub the temples in a circular motion. Next with firm pressure, starting in the middle of the forehead press two fingers into the forehead and drag from the hairline down to just above the brow. Repeat moving over slightly until you've covered the entire forehead. Last, using the thumb and forefinger, pinch the muscles just above the jaw bone that you feel tighten when clenching your jaw. Pinch firmly for 5 seconds and release three times.
Foot Massage: using a tennis ball, stand with the ball under the arch of one foot. Put as much pressure as you'd like on the ball and roll it back and forth or front to back. Run the ball up to the ball of the foot, under the heel of the foot and along each side of the foot. Switch feet whenever you feel satisfied.
According to Healthline's article on the Benefits of Stretching, there are many benefits to regular stretching. Stretching can help increase your flexibility, can also improve posture, reduce body aches, and most importantly for us, reduce stress! Here is a gentle and simple stretching routine that coupled with some deep breathing can help greatly decrease your stress level.
Standing or Seated:
Side Stretch- With a long, tall spine, shoulders back and belly tight, reach your arms up overhead, interlacing the fingers and stretch your arms to the right, hold for 3-4 breaths, then stretch over to the other side.
Chest Stretch (Heart Opener)- interlace your fingers behind your back and draw the wrists toward one another. Reach your hands up to feel a nice stretch in your biceps and through the front of your shoulders & chest.
Balance yourself out by stretching the upper back. Interlace your fingers in front of you and press your palms away from your body. Tuck your chin and tailbone rounding your back. Take a few breaths here, then a big exhale, and as you inhale take your hands up overhead, drawing the shoulders back and down. Then release your hands to your sides.
Hopefully, these few simple tips can help you stay calm and relaxed throughout the rest of this holiday season. I hope that as you reduce tension and anxiety in your physical body you are able to more thoroughly enjoy time with loved ones and focus on what's important to you at this time. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! 🎉🎁