The holiday season can be a stressful time of the year for many people. Whether we’re preparing for events with friends and family or adjusting to the uptick in work at our jobs, the late fall and early winter come with their fair share of stressors that can make it challenging for many of us to relax.
If you’re feeling stranded or burned out, you’re not alone. In fact, research from the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people reported an increase in stress and anxiety during the holidays.
Our increasingly busy schedules often prevent us from taking much-needed time for ourselves. Not being able to relax or enjoy normal activities can strain your mental health, especially when we force ourselves to keep working when our bodies and minds tell us to stop and take a breather.
While you may feel the pressure to stay productive, you should know that skipping breaks can make us less productive. Studies by the University of North Carolina indicate that regular breaks were able to lower stress, improve efficiency, and renew focus. Even if you don’t think you have time, finding even 5 minutes to relax can help get you through the holidays.
In this blog, we will guide you through five holistic wellness strategies you can perform on your own to relax, de-stress, and enjoy yourself during the holiday season.
1. Reduce Anxiety with Meditation
The art of meditation has been used to combat anxiety for thousands of years by societies across the globe. Meditation allows us to take a step back from the bustle and stress of our daily schedules, uniting our minds and bodies in contemplative relaxation.
Current scientific research also supports the wide range of clinical benefits that meditation can provide. The Mayo Clinic, one of the top U.S. healthcare providers in the U.S., even designates meditation as an effective clinical treatment for certain types of pain and mental health issues.
Many different types of meditation exist that can relieve anxiety. Although different, the underlying principles remain consistent and promote self-discovery while relieving the mental burdens that weigh you down.
Meditative practices are also easy to follow and will not take too much time out of your day. For many people, 15 minutes of meditation is enough to provide long-lasting anxiety relief to get them through their day.
To help get you started, we have outlined the basic steps you can take to begin meditating:
- Find a quiet place free from distractions
- Dim or turn off the lights, allowing sunlight into the room
- Sit on a cushion, mat, or the floor (wherever you are comfortable)
- Pay attention to your breathing, sweeping away all other thoughts
- Listen to your body and focus on the present moment
- Hold the position for at least 10 to 15 minutes
As you meditate, you’ll notice your muscles begin to relax, releasing tension. The stress you felt a moment ago will begin to melt away, cleaning your mind of intrusive thoughts and worries.
Want help with guided meditation? Check out Poppy Life Care’s online resources and guided meditation practices to learn more about how you can incorporate meditation into your busy holiday schedule.
2. Reset and Breathe with Yoga
Like meditation, yoga is an ancient holistic practice that promotes bodily and mental wellness, relaxation, and self-discovery. Yoga even includes elements of meditation and engages your body in ways that stretch your muscles, build physical strength, and improves circulation.
While we often think of stress as a mental issue, anxiety has a large impact on our physical health as well, which yoga can help to alleviate. In 2018, the International Journal of Preventative Medicine released research showing that yoga reduced the physical effects of stress and depression in women by a significant margin, especially when practiced daily.
Unlike some forms of exercise, yoga can restore energy and boost your mood, helping you to get through the rest of your day and overcome the fatigue you feel when the holiday season rolls around.
If you want to relieve stress and exercise your body, consider trying some common yoga exercises and positions, which can incorporate dynamic movements as you transition between them.
The best part? No prior experience is needed to benefit from yoga. A lot of what you’ll gain from the movements comes from focused breathing and transforming your body into a meditative space.
While you can perform yoga on your own, many people find that they benefit from following along with instructors who can guide them through poses. Like the yoga classes offered through Poppy Life Care, there are many great online and in-person resources to help you get started.
You can even practice yoga with others, turning this meditative exercise into an excuse to spend time with friends and family.
3. Strengthen & Focus Your Body with Nutrition
One of the hardest things to do on a busy schedule is maintain a healthy diet and consume the nutrients we need to keep our bodies and minds happy. When we become stressed, we often go for salty and sweet, pre-packaged foods that taste good. Although they may be tasty, these junk foods can contribute to stress and anxiety by depriving our bodies of the nutrients they need to function properly. Over time, poor nutrition can take its toll on our physical health, making it harder for our bodies to fend off sickness.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that processed and packaged foods are more likely to cause inflammation in our bodies, increasing our chances of developing anxiety and depression. In the same study, researchers also found that the opposite was true: maintaining a healthy gut can promote a positive mood and outlook.
Cooking at home is often the best way to improve your diet since you have full control over what you eat and can avoid unhealthy ingredients. While you may not feel that you have time to cook, consider prepreparing food for the week by setting aside a block of time on a day you have free.
Beyond eating enough fruits and vegetables, there are several superfoods that science has shown can improve mood and lower anxiety when consumed regularly. Many of them are also incredibly flavorful and delicious, so cooking with them is a win-win for you.
As you prepare for the holidays, try incorporating these four anxiety-reducing ingredients into your diet:
- Salmon – full of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA, salmon promotes brain health by increasing dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that can improve mood.
- Chamomile – it’s no secret that chamomile can help calm anxiety—this potent herb contains compounds that stimulate your GABA receptors, decreasing the damaging effects of stress on your body and mind.
- Turmeric – long celebrated for its flavor, the antioxidants in turmeric are known to lower inflammation and protect our brains from stress-related damage.
- Honey – aside from being deliciously sweet, honey has been shown to have anti-convulsant and anxiolytic properties that are comparable to some over-the-counter medications.
Nutrition is a complex subject and everyone has unique needs when it comes to finding the right foods for their health. If you want help creating a healthy diet that can lower stress, check out Poppy Life Care’s nutrition resources.
4. Adopt a Mindfulness Approach
Rather than being a specific practice, mindfulness is an approach to life that allows us to take our sense of self and personal wellness into consideration, no matter what we may be doing. For instance, meditation, yoga, and healthy eating habits are all mindfulness strategies that can contribute to a greater sense of calm.
Instead of just practicing mindfulness for short periods during the day, try incorporating a self-reflective approach throughout your schedule. In moments of stress or anxiety, when you may not have the time to sit and meditate, take a step back—even if it’s only for a minute—and listen to your body. Are your needs being met?
Mindfulness can also act as a reminder that stressful moments will pass and will provide you with the assurance necessary to overcome adversity.
In a recent study conducted by JAMA Psychiatry, mindfulness practices were shown to be just as effective as some prescription antidepressants at lowering anxiety and relieving depression. Over two months, patients who took prescription antidepressants and patients who practiced mindfulness techniques both experienced an over 30% reduction in anxiety symptoms.
This revelation has affirmed what Poppy Life Care wellness experts have known for years: practices like yoga and meditation are sustainable solutions to mental health concerns and can improve the quality of life for patients.
5. Give Yourself the Gift of Wellness – Donate to Worthy Causes
Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and for showing appreciation to those around us who make our lives possible. However, Thanksgiving is also a time to give to those in need. Research has found that the act of giving is beneficial to our own mental health and promotes a sense of well-being and satisfaction.
According to a study published by Plos One, 60% of the individuals they polled reported donating money to charity and were shown to have a greater sense of well-being than the remaining 40% of individuals who did not donate.
It’s in our nature to want to help others—satisfying our desire to make an impact in someone else’s life often has significant benefits for our own mental health and can alleviate some of the stress that builds up during the holiday season.
If you want to donate money, but are not sure where to give, consider donating to Poppy Life Care.
At Poppy Life Care, our holistic wellness experts use the techniques listed above to help individuals and families cope with mental health concerns like autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and more. As a nonprofit, we provide our services for free to ensure that underserved communities and individuals get the mental health support they need.
Although we provide services year-round, it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. Your support can help.
If you or someone you know struggling with mental health concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to Poppy Life Care’s therapists and coaches, who are standing by to help.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our wellness experts.