It’s been said that the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. The reunion of friends and family, the spirit of giving, and a sense of festive cheer permeate our days. Yet for some of us, these holidays can also bring increased responsibilities, dredge up old and difficult memories, and accentuate any current dilemmas we may be involved in. We may be in poor health, financially pinched, or undergoing emotional trauma; these are quagmires that can convert anybody’s holiday fun into a holiday mess. This article, then, discusses how to bring fun back into our lives, especially for those experiencing the holiday blues. Today we will be talking about (you guessed it!), stress management.
First, what is stress? Stress is the perception that a situation or event has moved beyond our ability to cope with it. So, what does the management of stress require? It requires options, choices, and alternatives. If you are suffering from stress overload, you may feel anxious, experience disrupted sleep patterns and even altered work performance. There can be a diminishment of concentration and focusing ability, and you may find yourself on an emotional roller coaster. Physical symptoms include headache, cold hands of feet, indigestion, aching neck or back, ulcers, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, bruxism (grinding of teeth), muscle spasms and skin rashes.
We react to stress both psychologically and physiologically. Psychologically, we can react with unpredictable outbursts of anger, or with alcohol or drug abuse. Physiologically, stress creates an internal fright-fight-flight response. This can, in the long run, cause a near shutdown of the digestive system, overburden the adrenal glands (where adrenalin is produced), and weaken the immune system due to a prolonged increase of stress hormones. Here, then, is a list that can help us all enjoy the holidays at their fullest, that “most wonderful time of the year”!
- Aerobic Exercise – for muscle relaxation, and endorphin release (well being).
- Catnap – fatigue increases impatience.
- Meditate – physical, mental and spiritual relaxation
- Limit Caffeine – it raises blood pressure, muscle tension, and nervousness.
- Shrug off Tension – stretch your neck and shoulders.
- Dump “downers” – they trigger muscle tension.
- Mind Your B’s and C’s – try vitamin B complex, C, and Calcium.
- Breathe Deeply to Feel Tranquil – from your diaphragm, it calms you down.
- Find a Buddy – turn your routine chores into fun.
- Banish Booze – tacycardia, insomnia, muscle tension, and irritability increase.
- Massage Away Stress – it calms nerves and muscles, and increases blood flow.
- Don’t Gorge, Graze – eat smaller, more frequent meals, plus more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Avoid nervous snacks, and cut back on sugar.
- Sniff Out Something You Like – soothe frayed nerves with appealing scents and music.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – you have a choice in deciding your reaction.
- Dress for Success – utilize confident, comfortable clothing.
- Walk Away From Stressors – leave the room and calm down.
- Take the Tedium out of Tasks – listen to upbeat music at work.
- Strive for Quick Relief – the sooner you reduce stress the better; unrelieved stress burdens the nervous system.
- Rise and Shine – get up 15 minutes earlier, and avoid a rush, (it helps if you get to bed earlier too!).
- Plan Your “Re-entry – use an intermission between work and home.
- Soak Away Worries – enjoy a warm bath.
- Declare a Truce for Family Battles – select a weekly time where squabbling is discouraged and only good feelings are expressed.
- Keep Your Cool – realize it is your reaction that stresses you, not the situation.
- Ditch Attitudes That Court Defeat – maintain a positive outlook in combination with realistic, flexible expectation.
- Accentuate the Positive – strive to be optimistic, hopeful, peaceful and serene.
- Imagine yourself winning – “see” yourself succeeding in trying situations.
- Stop Negative Chatter – don’t burden yourself with “doomed-to-defeat” thoughts.
- Plan for Playtime – schedule time daily.
- Express Yourself on Paper – when anger engulfs you, let it spill out, and then toss it away.
- Lock ‘Em Up, Toss ‘Em Away – visualize your stressors, then imagine them shrinking away.
- Build More Time Into Your Life – fill in idle time.
- Just Say, “No” – don’t take on more than you can handle.
- Have a Laugh – like exercise, it relieves muscle tension and releases endorphins.
- Let Off Steam – when all else fails, let out your feelings privately. Physically get rid of your frustration. Scream into a pillow, punch the couch, or stomp your feet, (don’t hurt yourself, though!).
(Dr. Richard Hanson, chiropractor in Jamestown, New York, can be reached at (716)664-0445. Many insurances are now being accepted.)