‘Tis the season… to lose sleep, breakout, feel irritable or react in plenty of other unpleasant ways when dealing with the highly stressful holiday season. This year, just like every other year, we’ll get through it, but these simple tips can create that deep breath of relief that’s sometimes so desperately needed when stress gets the best of us.
BEAUTIFY: Indulging in any spa treatment produces an immediate “ahh” sigh of relaxation, but nothing beats getting all ironed out from a really good rub down. Proper massages release muscle tension, soothe stressed skin and leave you feeling all blissed out. Can’t make it to a spa? No biggie – grab your most luxurious body lotion, or better yet, body oil, and starting at your toes, work in sweeping strokes up to your scalp; you’ll still reap the stress-beating benefits of a massage, and have some loot left for a manicure.
TUNES: Women’s Health recently published a piece declaring that listening to music is a surefire way of beating stress, stating that “Music can reduce stress levels—sometimes even more effectively than prescription drugs,” If popping your iPod into your dock can be more effective than popping a little blue pill, then hell yeah! Sorry neighbors, but you’ll hear The New Young Pony Club (and me) hollering all white knights and black suits, all season long.
BAKING: So first of all, yum. Stressed or not, give me an excuse to eat a cookie any day and I’ll take it. But real talk, baking can reduce stress for many reasons. Firstly, yes, eating a small treat, (comprised of simple carbs, like a cookie) releases a quick rush of serotonin, which is often referred to as the “happy hormone”. The actual process of baking is good for beating stress, too: taking a time out to do something that requires some concentration without too much difficulty can give your brain a much needed break and help shift the focus from scary, stressful stuff to a more relaxed state. Lastly, scents often associated with baking, such as vanilla and cinnamon, have been shown to reduce stress levels as well, so make sure to enjoy the experience with all your senses to reap the most stress-busting benefits.
SWEAT IT OUT: Ever heard of a runner’s high? Great news for people who aren’t runners: you can still achieve that high, rather easily, from many other forms of exercise. Endorphins, the neurotransmitters responsible for the “high”, are a feel good surge of happiness released when you’re physically active. That post-exercise hike, swim, or tennis match sure feel good, but focusing on your body’s movements and how you feel while performing the exercise is just as good for reducing stress as the endorphin rush itself. Body awareness makes you drift away from the day’s stresses, and truly feeling good about what your body is capable of accomplishing is a positive, healthy way to focus on the good, sans stress.
OM, ZEN, WHATEVER: Even if you’re nowhere close to considering yourself a yogi or have no idea what asanas are, there’s no denying the relaxing and calming effects yoga and meditating have on the body and mind. You don’t need to join a studio to de-stress with yoga or meditation – it’s all about harnessing the power of concentration. Find a comfortable, quiet spot, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and focus on just one thing. It can be anything from a place to an object or even your breathing, so long as you solely focus on that one thing and not let distractions enter your mind – being mindful is the key for this technique for improving stress levels. Adding yoga movements feels good, too, so stretching it out while being mindfully focused is a stress-fighting double dose.
EAT: Yep, strategic snacking can help lower stress. Avocados pack a serious B Vitamin and Folate punch, both which help control stress hormones. A surprising source of serious Vitamin C, berries can also help lower blood pressure and relieve stress. Prefer a crunchier snack? Munch on some walnuts, which lower blood pressure as well as Vitamin C. You could also snack your way to a serotonin boost. Yes, you can eat a sweet treat, like a cookie, (please see above: BAKING) but oats and grains will also boost levels in a healthier, more stable way and can be incorporated daily for an even bigger boost. What’s better than the rest? Your favourite treat, whether it be sinfully chocolaty, all gooey and cheesy or crunchy and salty. When a small something special is occasionally indulged in and you truly enjoy it in a close-your-eyes-and-smile kind of way, it’s surely the most pleasurable way to help beat stress.