Living Well: 5 tips to decompress from holiday stress
Holidays are often filled with joy and fun, but also stress. For many, holidays create a long list of obligations and to-dos and interrupt comfortable routines. For others, holidays bring up hard memories or accentuate feelings of loneliness. Both can cause stress. To keep stress at bay, try the following tips.
• Become aware of the stress you are holding. You’ve likely heard that the first step toward making a change is simply awareness. Practice becoming aware of the stress you hold in your body and how it makes you feel. Do your neck and shoulders feel like they are in knots? Do you have a stomachache? Do you tap your foot all day? Do you feel wiped out after a busy day at work? Learn about yourself and what triggers stress for you. Doing so will help you catch it before it becomes a problem and causes unwanted reactions, including irritation, trouble sleeping, headaches or health issues.
“Some people don’t like to admit that they feel stressed, but stress is a part of life. We all feel it sometimes. Learn how it affects you, and take steps to release it and not let it press down on you,” said Lindsey Short, athletic trainer with Memorial Regional Health.
• Take stretch breaks throughout the day. A common place for people to hold stress is in their neck, shoulders and back. If you sit all day at a desk, you likely feel tension build throughout the day in at least one of these areas. To combat it, take breaks to stretch.
“Every 30 minutes, lean back and stretch your neck, touch your ears to your shoulders, do head rolls and other stretches to break up that forward flexion. You can also use a heat pack that sits on the back of your neck. The heat alone helps expel tension,” Short said.
Every hour, stand up and stretch and move your body. While you wait for your lunch to warm up, stretch your arms over your head. While you stand at the copier, stretch your legs.
“Everything is connected from the bottom of your skull to your tailbone. If you feel stress in your shoulder blades, it can often be traced to tension in your lower back. So, take some moments to relax and stretch throughout the day,” she said.
If you stand or walk all day at a job, you might develop shin splints or muscle cramps. Stretching these areas regularly helps keep tension from building up and causing pain.
• Get “backwards” now and then. Short says we are a “forward” society and that everything we do is in front of us. When we sit at a computer, we lean forward; when we check our phone messages, we hunch forward.
“If you are always facing one direction, you have to counter it now and then and face the other direction. Lean back and touch your shoulder blades together to stretch the front of your chest,” Short suggested.
• Stop regularly, and take deep breaths. Consider completing a relaxation routine, doing yoga, or practicing meditation, even if it’s only for a few minutes each day. Close your eyes, and take 10 deep breathes while you clear your mind of the things you have to do and give yourself some positive affirmations.
• Carve out some “you” time. “The best advice is to do one thing each day that makes you happy. Play a game, go work out, paint, do a crossword puzzle. Doing something that relaxes you for even just 20 minutes a day can really make a difference,” Short said.