While the holidays have may have come and gone in a blur of peppermint treats, “helpful” family members and luxury goods that you may or may not return, that doesn't mean that those feelings of intense anxiety and stress have fully left. Combating stress is not something that we simply have to deal with during the holiday season— it is a yearlong challenge. This New Year, instead of your annual resolution of losing 30 pounds or being nicer to your mother, why not fix the problem at the source and resolve to lead a happier, healthier and more stress-free life?
The first step? Breathe. We know, we know, this technique has been beaten to death, but that is only because it truly works! When you are stressed out you tend to unintentionally resort to sharp, shallow and rapid breaths which only enhance your stress, whereas relaxed breathing produces calmness.
In an article titled Blissing Out: 10 Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress On-the-Spot on WebMD, Dr. Joan Borysenko, Director of Harvard’s Mind-Body Clinical Programs, says to let out a big breath by dropping your chest, and exhaling through gently pursed lips. Then, feel your breath coming and going as your mind stays focused on your low belly or center. Next, inhale and feel your core expand, then exhale, sighing again as you drop your chest and your belly, back and sides contract. Repeat these steps 10 times, relaxing more fully with each breath. Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Another simple step you can take is to merely manage your time effectively. At work, try to avoid huge pile-ups of unfinished tasks and aim to stay on top of things. When you’re home, make lists of things that you need to accomplish so that you can go into activities with a plan of attack. You can also organize your tasks by difficulty as well as the impact their completion will have on your life. In doing so, you may discover that some tasks on the list may seem simple at first, but will have a significant impact on your well-being once completed.
Something else you can practice to reduce stress is meditation— and this doesn't need to necessarily be traditional meditation. Set aside a specific amount of time each day that is YOURS and do something that truly makes you happy. According to Herbert Benson, M.D., author of The Relaxation Response and director emeritus of Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Chestnut Hill, MA, any repetitive, enjoyable action can be a source of meditation. This could be taking some time to paint, curling up in your favorite chair and knitting, or a brisk walk outside with your dog. Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Speaking of which, walking (or any form of exercise, really) can help offset the overeating of foods that are loaded with sugars and fats (particularly after the holidays.) "In winter we tend to crave fats and sweets, but ironically, the more fat and sugar we eat, the less energy we have, and the more stressed and run down we feel,” says Lucy Gilles-Khouri, Director of Dean & St. Mary’s Healthworks at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin in an article on HealingWell.com. By simply adding 10 minutes of exercise to your daily routine you can make a difference to your health regime, especially during the winter months when people aren't as active as they are during other times of the year.
Your life should not be filled with back-to-back situations of anxiety. With the New Year, readjust the way you think and the way that you approach situations and you will realize that there are simple ways to reduce stress in your life. Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto/Thinkstock
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