How to Beat Holiday Anxiety and Stress Now

People looking for holiday cheer and charm often end up with chaos and craziness. How can you relax and survive this time of year?

When you have so much to do, how can you slow down and take time to relax?

If those self-help books and relaxation techniques aren’t working for you…

Why not ask an experienced massage practitioner for help?

As you might expect, they can help you relax. But many are surprised to learn that…

An experienced massage therapist can help you focus on breathing more efficiently.

And this experience can totally transform your day, your week, even your month.

I’m curious, so I have to ask… what is it about the holidays that gets you down?

Why is it that you’re more likely to be stressed out by obligations and errands during the holiday season?

For one thing, it’s cold and flu season and your immune system is under assault. It’s also getting dark earlier each day.

For many people, they’re eating worse, sleeping less, and drinking more.

Some feel a vague sense of dread about getting together with family.

Whatever you can do to identify specific problems, it will help you deal more directly with them.

For example, holidays can put you in the same room with relatives you avoid the rest of the year. For people struggling with depression, this can be especially difficult.

“Some relatives don’t really believe you’re depressed,” says Gloria Pope, director of advocacy and public policy at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in Chicago. “They think you’re just lazy, or that it’s all in your head. It can be really hurtful.”

“There’s a lot of cultural pressure during the holidays,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We tend to compare ourselves with these idealized notions of perfect families and perfect holidays.”

“During the holidays, a lot of childhood memories come back,” Duckworth adds.

What can you do if those memories are more bitter than sweet? What if you feel at the mercy of relatives or steamrolled by family tradition?

Remember, you have a say.

The key is to take some control over the holidays, instead of letting them control you.

“Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing things that make me miserable?’ Think about the reasons,” urges Duckworth. He suggests that you draw up a list of reasons why you engage in these holiday traditions, and then a list of reasons why you shouldn’t. Just making a simple pro and con list will remind you that you do have a choice.

How stressed are you?

Awareness is the first step in coping with stress. Take a moment to tune in to your own stress signals.

How would you answer these questions?

  1. Do you have headaches or stomach aches?
  2. Do you have pain in your shoulders or arms?
  3. Have your eating habits changed? Are you eating more or less than usual?
  4. Do you worry about bad things happening to your loved ones?
  5. Is it hard to concentrate?
  6. Do you wake up at night thinking about things you have no control over?
  7. Do you lack energy to do the things you enjoy at the end of the day or on the weekend?
  8. Do you often feel tired or apathetic?
  9. Are you tense or irritable at work or at home?
  10. Have you lost your sense of humor?
  11. Are you increasingly forgetful?
  12. Do you feel you have lost control over your life?
  13. Do your relationships or friendships feel unsatisfying?
  14. Has your drinking or smoking increased?
  15. Do you find it hard to relax?

How did you do?

If you answered yes to more than half of the questions in the box…

You probably need to take steps now to reduce your stress.

But how do you reduce your stress?

Make time to relax. When you do, you’re more resilient and less prone to disease and injury.

Set aside time to go for walks in beautiful places. Take breaks at work to stretch. Learn relaxation techniques. Get help from a trained massage practitioner.

What else can you do?

Take a whiff of citrus.

Researchers studying depression have found that certain citrus fragrances boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress by increasing levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that affects mood.

For an all-day pick-me-up, dab a little lemon or orange essential oil on a handkerchief to tuck in your pocket.

Walk away from worries.

Did I mention walking is good? I did? Well…

“The rhythm and repetition of walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, and it decreases anxiety and improves sleep,” says nutrition-and-wellness expert Ann Kulze, MD.

Why not aim for a brisk, half-hour walk every day?

Squeeze here.

Know that fleshy place between your index finger and thumb? Put some firm pressure there for just 30 seconds. It can really reduce stress and tension in your upper body. So if you start to feel overwhelmed by the holiday chaos, give your hand a squeeze and take a deep breathe.

Do less, enjoy more.

“We go overboard to please others during the holidays,” says George Pratt, PhD, a psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California. “Instead, take care of yourself by saying no at least once – and maybe more.”

Crack yourself up.

Laughing like crazy reduces stress hormones. That, in turn, helps immune cells function better, says psychologist Steve Wilson, founder of the World Laughter Tour, an organization that offers therapeutic-laughter training.

Forget perfection.

Stop obsessing over doing it all. “Focus your energy on enjoying the people in your life,” says Donna Schempp, the program director for the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Go tech-free.

Cell phones buzzing and email alerts constantly keep us in a perpetual fight-or-flight mode.

All that adrenaline makes you exhausted and really hurts your health. Why not turn off your gadgets and enjoy some time with real people?

Dip into some honey.

You’ll get an instant kick and more energy for the long haul. Plus, research indicates that honey has antioxidants and antibacterial power that just may improve your immunity. Another thing: the darker the honey, the more antioxidants you get.

Turn up the tunes.

Research from the University of Maryland shows that hearing music you love can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. Why not calm down and help your heart too?

Fit in exercise.

It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re stressed out. But you’re in for a surprise…going for a run or hitting the gym can make you feel amazing. In fact, research shows that workouts can boost your mood for up to 12 hours.

And finally…

How can I help you personally?

Call me at 303-920-2350 with any questions, concerns or to find out how massage can make life better for you.

by Sarah Shropshire
LMT, Essential Oil Consultant and Business Owner