Managing Stress for the Holidays
Stress is an important part of our life. If we have no stress, we will not grow, change or advance. However, stress can become very overwhelming and it can begin to overpower our ability to cope and function. It seems that during this time of year, people are more stressed than ever, shopping, travelling, dealing with cold weather and many other small things can compound and make this holiday season not very fun.
Stress that motivates us and empowers us to change and grow can be an important part of the human experience. However, the coping mechanisms are not always taught to us and if the stresses begin to compound with each other, we will get less done, function at a level that is below our standards and unfortunately this can affect our mental and physical health.
It is important to remember that when our stress begins to elevate it, we must be aware that this is happening and take the proper steps to control our response. If you find yourself getting angry easily, or if you see that you are overly emotional or getting sick easier than usual, these can all be signs that the stresses in your life are getting the best of you. There are some simple things that need to be done in order to prevent stress from short-circuiting our lives.
First, breathe! Your breathing has an uncanny ability to calm you down. If you find that you are breathing at a shallow and accelerated pace, you will not be getting the vital oxygen to your tissues and this can increase the physical and mental stress of the situation. So slow down, take several deep belly breaths and focus on your breathing when you find yourself getting stressed. This simple tool can be profoundly effective at relaxing you and getting you to a calmer more peaceful state. The best part about using breathing to control stress is the fact that you can do this exercise anywhere, it’s easy and free!
Second, watch what you eat! It is too easy to reach for the junk food that seems to be everywhere this time of year. However, these “comfort foods” can really be a major source of artificial colors, loads of sugar and this combination of sugary junk food will only increase your levels of insulin and cortisol, increase your stress and reduce your resistance to bacteria and viruses. If you’re going to consume these holiday items, do it for one day only and make sure that is exactly what you want. If you are on a weight loss program, it is also crucial that you resist these temptations, because it only takes one cheat to “kick” yourself out of ketosis and stop the fat burning process, talk about increased stress!
Third, Exercise! When you exercise you “burn off” excess energy that can create tension in your muscles and mind. You want to shoot for exercise 3-5 times per week with an emphasis on your heart rate. Try to exercise at an intensity of 75% of your maximum heart rate (220-age) and try to sustain this for 30-45 minutes. Exercise makes us feel better, improves sleep and is a great way to ensure that any excess calories consumed will not be converted to fat!
Next, don’t forget your spine! Remember that your spine houses your nervous system and your nervous system control the function of every cell, every tissues, every organ, and organ system in your body! If you have spinal abnormalities, this can create stresses that can lead to weakening of the nerves which can lead not only to pain but also to organ and tissue dysfunction. At Benchmark Medical Group, we have tools that can get your spine back toward normal and decrease the stresses and strains on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and most importantly, nerves.
Lastly, try to remember what this holiday season is about. If you keep your focus on thoughts like joy, love, family, God, children, your thoughts will help produce feel good chemicals in the amazing pharmacy that is your brain, and you will give yourself the mental boost that you need. Focusing on anger, fear, or even saying to yourself or aloud, “I’m so stressed!” will promote nothing but more stress. Thoughts are real chemical producing events that occur in your brain, so focus on good thoughts to create good things in your life
If you need someone to help you get through this season or if you want to see if you can benefit from the services we have here at Benchmark Medical Group, please call! We can help!
Dr. Jason W. Haas