Don’t Let The Holidays Stress You Out. Just Practice your ABT’s


This morning while perusing the ads in the Sunday  News I noticed a few inserts for children’s  toys and realized the holiday  season has begun.  For me, it’s way too soon to be thinking about Christmas shopping, but  for retailers, there  is so much competition for your holiday dollars that every year it seems as though they start a little earlier. How I long for the days when the Christmas season didn’t begin until after Thanksgiving. But it’s now commonplace to see Christmas displays well before Halloween. I suppose some people may see the extended holiday season  as extra time and opportunity to shop, but for many it can mean that much more opportunity for stress.  We like to think of the Holidays as a joyous season, a time to celebrate family, friends, our religious beliefs and a New Year. But with all the shopping, wrapping, baking, the  children’s Christmas concerts, parties, and entertaining, it can end up being more stressful than joyful.

Many of us already have activities we can turn to during these busy times  to help us recharge and restore balance to our lives.  Yoga, meditation, and massage are more popular then ever. Even activities as simple as  taking  a long walk or soaking in a hot bath can help. There are many wonderful ways to escape stress, but honestly during the busiest time of the year, how do you fit it it?  Plus when you’re standing in the longest checkout line you’ve ever seen, and your patience is wearing thin, you can’t duck out for a quick yoga class. So  what can you do to survive the season and keep calm and relaxed. Well, I have a few quick and easy ways to  make this holiday season a little brighter.  And you never have to lose your place in the checkout line.

Here’s a quick review of how stress works:                                                                                        In order to maintain balance within the body, there are two major parts of our nervous system that function in balance with each other. The parasympathetic nervous system which is our “rest and recovery mode” and the sympathetic nervous system, our “flight or fight mode” and one of these two states is always engaged. When we are in a stressful situation, whether it’s trying to meet a deadline (like all that baking for the cookie exchange) or simple impatience (standing in long lines) our bodies shift into sympathetic mode, which raises our blood pressure, and slows down our digestive and immune systems.  When the stress is chronic and never stops, we are more susceptible to disease and illness.  It’s no wonder we’re more likely to get the flu or a cold in the winter.  Our defenses have been compromised by constantly being sympathetic dominant.  So what do you do to flip that switch and engage your rest and recovery mode?  Read on, I have some answers!

QUICK AND EASY STRESS REDUCING TIPS:                                                                          I know it’s an oxymoron, to suggest a “quick fix” for stress  when one of the major contributors is our fast paced lives.  But  these tips are for use  “in the moment”  when you feel your blood pressure rise, your patience becomes exhausted, and you want to yell at the woman holding up the line at Target, searching through her purse for her credit card (because during the 20 minutes she was waiting in line she never realized she needed her card, so why would she bother looking for it until the last minute….grrrr!)

So what are the ABT’s? Aroma, Breath and Touch.  Three simple but powerful tools to help you cruise through the season with barely a blip.

  1. SMELL A FLOWER.  When we inhale an AROMA, we experience emotional changes that cause a measurable physical response. Aromas can relax, calm, uplift and invigorate, and most importantly, create hormonal changes that engage our parasympathetic nervous system and reduce stress.  But be sure you’re using plant based, not synthetic aromas. The molecular structure of an aroma is very complex and is almost impossible to completely recreate.  A synthetic replica of a plant may smell pleasing and our nose might not be able to tell the difference , but our brain and every cell in our body can.  Synthetic aromas do  not have the ability to impact us emotionally or physically the way a real plant can. Plus, often the synthetic aromas we breathe actually create more stress, because they are toxins that our bodies must work to remove.  Aromas should reduce stress, not create more.  Carry a bottle of your favorite aroma with you and when you feel tense, just pull it out and take a big deep breath. One of my favorites is Aveda’s Stress Fix, a blend of lavender, lavandin and clary sage clinically proven to relieve feelings of stress.  The roller ball is perfect for carrying in your purse or pocket.     stress fix
  2. BREATHE!  Breath is an important link in the mind-body relationship. When we feel stressed, our breathing rate and pattern change as part of the ‘fight-or-flight response and we  take short shallow breaths. But by taking just one full deep breath we can engage the parasympathetic nervous system,  calm our mind and begin to return to a more relaxed state.  It’s called diaphragmatic breathing and you may actually have to practice how to take a deep breath in order to do it properly:                                                                                                        Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. As you inhale slowly and fully (nose or mouth) the hand on your abdomen should rise first, and most with only a little movement of the hand on your chest.  Try to imagine that you’re filling your lungs from the bottom up. Then exhale, slowly and completely. It may seem difficult at first, but keep practicing, it’s well worth the effort.  Practice this technique anytime you’re feeling stressed, it really can make a difference.
  3. TOUCH. Another powerful tool for combating stress, touch has the ability to bring calming benefits even when we do self massage. I’m not saying it should replace your massage therapist who is well trained in muscle manipulation and can reach areas you can’t, but for a quick stress buster, it can really work.  Massage can relieve tension headaches, and stress, all too common during the hectic holiday season.  And you really can do this just about anywhere, just keep in mind that intention is important, you have to focus on bringing healing energy to your body and use firm touch. Try massaging the palm of one hand with the thumb of your other hand while waiting in the check out line at the grocery store. Or try  kneading  your forearms or shoulders  while sitting at a traffic light. And if you’re with a friend or loved one,  give each other a quick shoulder rub.  Others may stare, but probably because they’re jealous! Added bonus, massage benefits both the giver and the receiver (one of the many reasons I love my job).  If you would like some hands on tips for self massage, I am offering a limited number of free 15 minute consultations at Elan (717-392-2207) or check out this  article on self massage that can give you some excellent techniques:      .

By trying any one of these tips, you might actually enjoy the holidays more  then ever, and to really elevate your mood, try combining all three. Amazing!


How to Breathe Correctly


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: 5 Ways to Instantly De-Stress During the Holidays | SteerList

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