The whirlwind of the holidays has rushed in on the heels of a Santa Barbara drought and heat wave, which has felt like Fourth of July weather in November. Thank God, it’s cooling down … a little.
But the holidays are here, and no matter what your religion, culture and/or beliefs, even the cooler temps can’t always keep the frantic energy of the season from causing stress. However, there are a few simple and enjoyable ways to keep your stress at bay.
Let’s begin with one of my favorites:
» 1. Fatten up your latte. What? You read it correctly — the extra protein and fat from whole milk will help you feel calmer.
» 2. Smile. And I know how to make you. Listen to this: A study at the University of Wisconsin found that people with Botox injections were less prone to anger because they couldn’t express it. Even if you fake it, the simple act of smiling can relax your entire body and reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. The best part about smiling is that it’s contagious.
» 3. Take a deep breath. Deep breathing helps release endorphins in your body, which can put you at ease and calm your mind. As you breathe, visualize a peaceful place. Now add a smile. Who knew the road to transformation was so easy?
» 4. Focus on the exhale. According to Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D., the author of Buddha’s Brain, "When you elongate your exhalations, you spark your parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down your heart rate." Take three long exhalations, making them twice as long as your inhalation.
» 5. Pet Fido. Petting and playing with animals releases oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the "love hormone." This chemical triggers feelings of happiness and reduces stress and depression as well as increasing feelings of trust.
» 6. Clean your desk. Feel overloaded? Can’t find your "to do" list? Feel like you’re losing your mind? Then clear the clutter off your desk. It will recharge your energy, give you mental clarity and relax you physically.
» 7. Think sensually. Umm … I like this one. Tactile solutions work wonders. Take a warm shower, listen to your favorite music, light candles and enjoy a massage. Use your imagination and sweeten your life.
» 8. Indulge in chocolate. Nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, RD, the author of Eat Your Way to Sexy, says that a "Johns Hopkins University study found that the taste of sweetness on your tongue causes a surge of feel-good endorphins." Eating a mere 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate daily lowers stress hormone levels.
The holidays are a time of celebration and connection. Don’t let the undertow of emotion pull you into the drama. Rise above your fruitcake relatives, hyper kids and last-minute shopping by using these simple strategies. Leave stress behind and relax into the beauty of the season.