Stop Holiday Stress in Its Tracks
- Friday, 04 December 2009
In the American Psychological Association's annual 2008 Stress in America survey released earlier this month, 80 percent of the people surveyed said the economy is a significant source of stress, while 47 percent of Americans reported their stress had increased in the past year.
This increased stress manifests in all sorts of emotional and physical ways, from sadness and lack of motivation to headaches and muscle tension. More than half of the Americans surveyed also reported fatigue and lying awake at night, and 60 percent reported irritability or anger.
So how can you cope with the chaos and minimize the impact of stress on your body?
The number one thing you can do to de-stress is take a few minutes to just breathe, says Pamela Reilly, a Naturopath, certified natural health professional, and life coach based in Indiana.
"One of the best ways to deal with stress is to simply breathe deeply from the diaphragm," Reilly says. "Deep breathing from the diaphragm helps oxygenate the body and helps calm the mind by allowing it to re-focus. Deep breathing has a very calming effect and forces one to take a momentary break."
Reilly also recommends Emotional Freedom Technique (or EFT), which "uses acupressure points combined with positive affirmations to help combat emotional and physical issues," she says.
Exercise is also a great stress-reducer because it increases production of endorphins, the "feel-good" neurotransmitters that help boost your mood. It also helps divert your brain away from thoughts of money problems or unfinished work by focusing your brain on the activity at hand.
Contrary to popular belief, exercise doesn't have to be a chore. You don't need a personal trainer, a gym membership or an expensive machine. Instead, think about ways you can work exercise into your daily routine. Ride your bicycle to work or to pick up the kids at school. Or make the most of your lunch break with a brisk 30-minute walk.
Nutrition and Supplements
Nutrition and supplements can also help manage stress. You may want to grab for that chocolate chip cookie or bag of potato chips, but that's not a good idea; sugary and processed foods will add even more stress to your taxed nervous system.
Instead, Reilly recommends foods rich in magnesium and vitamin B, which "help regulate the production of brain chemicals associated with positive moods and anxiety reduction."
Think dark leafy greens, broccoli, almonds, pumpkin seeds, bananas, dried figs, and oat bran. Carbohydrate-rich beans and lentils may also help relieve stress by stimulating serotonin production in the brain, Reilly says.
For tension headaches and muscle aches, Reilly suggests a glass of milk. "The calcium and magnesium in milk have a muscle-relaxing effect," she explains. "I recommend only drinking organic milk to avoid the potential negative effects of the hormones and antibiotics used in mainstream dairy farming."
Supplements can also help people deal with stress, and magnesium is the top stress-buster. "It is estimated that 70 percent of U.S. citizens are deficient in magnesium, which could be one reason why so many people have difficulty dealing with stress," Reilly says. Just 200 to 600 mg of magnesium daily can alleviate feelings of anxiety and stress.
B-complex vitamins are also a good idea, as they help boost production of serotonin and other "feel good" chemicals in the brain, Reilly says.
Other options include Holy Basil, which helps reduce cortisol levels, and licorice root or Siberian ginseng teas, tinctures or supplements to offer adrenal support to keep your kidneys in top working order.
As stress piles up this holiday season and you start to feel pulled in 20 different directions, don't forget to take a few minutes for yourself each day. Whether you take a relaxing bath or enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, a little me time can help you unwind and avoid those sleepless nights.