De-stress for the Holidays
Every Thanksgiving I hold in my heart the magical memories of holidays past, and I begin to delight in preparing for the coming events. I begin planning holiday parties, shopping for the perfect gift, finding the dress for the company Christmas party, getting the house decorated, making holidays treats to share, wrapping presents and assembling gift baskets. Although I love all of it stress inevitably winds its way into my plans. So I thought I would share with you my tricks for de-stressing during the holidays.
Light a candle - the combination of light and scent will remind you to stop, inhale the aroma and enjoy the moment.
Stress Reducing Scents to Try:
How to Use Essential Oils:
Topically - place a drop or two directly on the skin.
Diffuse - Diffusers break down essential oils into micro-molecules and projects them into the air. As the oils break down they release natural ozone which freshens and improves air quality.
Mix with Carrier Oils - Add essential oils to lotions or other carrier oils like almond oil to make the essential oil aroma last longer.
Add to bath water - Add essential oils to bath water or bath salts.
It's no wonder that Adaptogens are becoming so popular for stress reduction. Often these plants have adapted to grow in adverse conditions like high altitudes, cold climates and desert like wilderness. This is what may make them so capable of lowering stress in humans. Adaptogenic herbs have been proven to be completely safe & non-toxic, they improve the body’s resistance to stress, and help the body achieve balance. Most can be found at Whole Foods or Lassen's market and as of January 1st, many will be available at East.
8 Adaptogenic Herbs I Recommend Exploring:
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) – Reduces Cortisol which is known as the stress hormone.
Astragalus – (Astragalus membranaceous) – Grows in China, Mongolia & Korea – The root is used to boost the immune system and improve blood flow to the brain.
Eleuthro – (Eleutherococcus senticosus) – Boosts immunity and reduces fatigue.
Holy Basil or Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum L.) - Reduces stress and anxiety and boosts the adrenals when they are fatigued.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) – Native to Eurpoe and Asia, Licorice root is sweet so it is often added to herbal tea blends. It can speed the repais of the stomach lining and sooth gastro intestinal problems. It relieves the adrenal glands that produce stress.
Maca (lepidium meyenii) – Growns in the mountains of South America maily in high altitude regions of peru. Available in powder form. Increases fertility in women and men, increases energy and stamina.
Schizandra – High in anti-oxidants, is fights free radicals. It is great for liver health as it helps to slow the hardening of the arteries and balances blood sugar.
Shatavari -(Asparagus racemosus) – Rejuvenative for the female reproductive system & balancing for hormones.
Humans have been using water to reduce stress for ages. Perhaps it is because warm water brings us back to the time that we were comfortably submerged in our mother's wombs; completely cared for a nurtured. Bathing is a tradition spanning centuries and touching every continent.
A warm bath can make your heart beat faster, giving it a healthy workout.
Baths have a good influence on lung capacity and oxygen intake and increase both.
Submersion relieves the joints of pain and discomfort giving them a much needed rest.
Stretching and moving in the water has low impact on joints, muscles and bones and can improve mobility.
Warm water bathing can increase levels of serotonin, the chemical produced by the brain associated with happiness and wellbeing.
A study has shown that our bodies associate being horizontal with relaxation and vulnerability.
When we bathe we often get much needed alone time that we would normally spend either with other people or accomplishing tasks rather than having down time.
When we spend time caring for ourselves by planning a bath and setting up the bath salts, water and candles we are showing that we value ourselves, just as we show our partner that we care when we spend time planning a date.
MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION
Massachusetts General Hospital & Harvard Medical School conducted a study lead by Sara Lazar which found that meditation changes your brain in just 8 weeks. This is true for long time meditators and for new meditators. We can increase our ability to connect with others and respond to stimuli and reduce the effects of stress and our fight or flight response through meditation.
Jon Kabat Zinn, PhD , the Founder of the modern mindfulness movement has a specific concept that I found crucial in beginning my meditative practice. The concept at the foundation of his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is that “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally." I believe the most important part of his concept is "non-judgementally". I have noticed in my practice that if I begin to judge myself or others during my practice I can just notice that judgement has shown up and acknowledge it. I don't label it as good or bad - it's just a concept - judgement exists. Then I let it go and move my attention back to the breath.
How to Start a Meditation Practice
Create a quiet comfortable sacred space to meditate in
Start with just 5 minutes per day
RPM (Rise, Pee, Meditate)
Limit Distractions (turn off phone, kennel dogs, position arms, hands & legs so that there is no pulling or twisting)
Sit or Lay down comfortably - you do not have to sit up to meditate. The goal is to be comfortable so do what is best for your body. Trust yourself.
While Meditating Focus on the Breath
Allow thoughts to come and go without judgement - notice them like the sounds going by - sounds are neither good nor bad - they simply exist.
When you find your mind is running away with thoughts - simply place your attention back on the breath.
Try 5 minutes of meditation for 7 days. If you are successful, then add 5 more minutes.
Use Headspace App to keep track of your meditation. They have guided and non-guided meditation timers.
I hope these tips will help you more fully enjoy the holidays stress free!