It’s two days until Christmas and our To-Do lists are a mile long. The ham needs to be baked, the candy bought, and don’t forget about those last minute gifts!  With all that’s going on, it feels as if there’s not a moment to spare, much less breath.  All of this hustle and bustle can lead to unnecessary holiday stress.  Over time, this stress can result in impaired cardiovascular function¹ and a weakened immune system².   Take 5-10 minutes today for yourself. Yes, that’s what I said, for YOU.  That one email that needs to be checked can wait just a few more minutes (trust me, it won’t be going anywhere). Below are two of my favorite ways to settle down holiday stress quickly and efficiently, while still allowing you to have Little Johnny’s present wrapped in time!

Yoga for Holiday Stress

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Yoga is an excellent holiday stress reliever and mood enhancer. Studies have shown the benefits of yoga and it’s stress-relieving effects in various populations, including those with PTSD, major depressive disorder, hypertensive patients, veterans, high school students, and healthy adults³. One study demonstrated that people who performed yoga had a 27% increase in GABA levels ( a neurotransmitter that blocks brain signals; reduced levels have been found in those with mood/anxiety disorders and epilepsy)4. Other studies have shown decreased self-perceived stress measures5 and improved cortisol levels6(a hormone secreted by humans in response to stress).   So take some time today to do a few cobras, downward dogs, or even corpse pose. Not only will you briefly clear your mind and give relief to your back, it will allow you to focus on what matters most during the holiday season, something we can easily lose sight of amidst all of the hustle and bustle.

Mediate Away Holiday Stress

yoga sunset-minMeditation is another way to quickly and easily get rid of holiday stress. There are various techniques one can perform, depending upon your preference. Find a peaceful space (preferably quiet) to recite (either aloud or internally) a favorite scripture, mantra, or to even focus on your breathing. Repeat your word, phrase, or breathing slowly, allowing other thoughts to be set aside for a few minutes. One study demonstrated that just 12 minutes of meditation per day can reduce depressive symptoms in caregivers of those with dementia7.  Likewise, a second study showed brief stints (25 minutes for 3-day duration) of meditation are linked to better coping mechanisms associated with stressors.8. Another study demonstrated decreased stress levels, along with increased empathy and compassion (a must when surrounded with family/friends constantly during the holiday season)9. Choose a meaningful word or phrase and sit quietly to reflect on why we celebrate the holiday season in the first place. You may even find all those worries dissipate as the true meaning of giving reflects in your hearts.

If yoga or meditating are not your favorite activities, there is evidence that any type of moderate physical activity can reduce holiday stress10 – whether it’s a quick jog, a HIIT workout (check out the site for some amazing options!), or even a few push-ups. Taking time for yourself during this holiday season will not only benefit you, but may also benefit those around you. We could all use a little bit more compassion and tolerance toward those everyday stressors that can become magnified with all of the other requirements during the holiday season. We wish you a stress free holiday season, and a very Merry Christmas!

References:

  1. Matthews KA, Katholi CR, McCreath H, Whooley MA, Williams DR, Zhu S, Markovitz JH. Blood pressure reactivity to psychological stress predicts hypertension in the CARDIA study. Circulation. 2004 Jul 6;110(1):74-8. Epub 2004 Jun 21.
  2. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.Segerstrom, Suzanne C.; Miller, Gregory E.Psychological Bulletin, Vol 130(4), Jul 2004, 601-630.

  3. Chong CS, Tsunaka M, Tsang HW, Chan EP, Cheung WM. Effects of yoga on stress management in healthy adults: A systematic review. Altern Ther Health Med. 2011 Jan-Feb;17(1):32-8. Review.
  4. Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, et al. Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(11):1145-1152. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007.
  5. Smith C, Hancock H, Blake-Mortimer J, Eckert K. A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety. Complement Ther Med. 2007 Jun;15(2):77-83. Epub 2006 Jun 21.
  6. Rocha KK, Ribeiro AM, Rocha KC, Sousa MB, Albuquerque FS, Ribeiro S, Silva RH. Improvement in physiological and psychological parameters after 6 months of yoga practice. Conscious Cogn. 2012 Jun;21(2):843-50. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.014. Epub 2012 Feb 17.
  7. Lavretsky H, Siddarth P, Nazarian N, et al. A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: Effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity. International journal of geriatric psychiatry. 2013;28(1):57-65. doi:10.1002/gps.3790.
  8. Creswell JD, Pacilio LE, Lindsay EK, Brown KW. Brief mindfulness meditation training alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Jun;44:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.02.007. Epub 2014 Feb 23.
  9. Chiesa A, Serretti A. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 May;15(5):593-600. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0495.
  10. Steptoe A, Kimbell J, Basford P. Exercise and the Experience and Appraisal of Daily Stressors: A Naturalistic Study. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 1998 August; 21(4): 363-374.