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Quick breaks can de-stress your holiday

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is here. There are presents to wrap, parties to attend, family to visit and lots of running around to do. As much fun as the holidays can be, our efforts to celebrate holiday joy can sometimes turn out to be a little stressful.
“It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but a lot of times it can get too frantic to enjoy,” says Dr. Aliasgar Zakirhusain Chittalia, an internist at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. “It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself to try to live up to the ideal of the ‘perfect holiday.’ Take some time this time of year to try to find time to recharge your batteries.”

Often, we think we need to block out a significant chunk of time to wipe away the stress. But sometimes, just catching our breath for a few minutes is enough to get us back on track. Here are five tips for five-minute “remedies” to help you stay sane and healthy during the holidays.

1. Get the day started with gratitude

When we wake up, the things that must get done that day begin to infiltrate our minds. Before our feet even hit the ground, we feel like we’re falling behind and rushing to catch up.

Rather than starting the day by obsessing over what’s ahead of you, stop for just a couple of moments and give thanks for the positive things in your life, whether that’s your family, your job or even the opportunity that the coming day holds. Being grateful can help you to realize that you have a lot of positive things in your life, and you don’t have to stress over making “the perfect holiday.”

Some studies claim that practicing gratitude has some of the following benefits:

  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Reducing aches and pains
  • Helping you sleep better
  • Giving you more satisfaction in your life

2. Breathe deeply

This is something you can do at your desk at work, and it can have a big impact on your day. If you aren't comfortable taking time to breathe deeply in such a public place, find a quiet spot in the office or at home where you won’t be distracted — it can even be the bathroom. Close your eyes and inhale slowly and deeply, for at least five seconds. Pause when your lungs are full and slowly exhale, taking at least another five seconds. Repeat this ten times (or more).

“Try to concentrate only on your breath and not to let all those other distractions enter your mind,” says Dr. Chittalia. “You can even come up with a ‘mantra’ to help you keep distracting thoughts out of your mind. Given the season, you could focus on a word like ‘joy’ or ‘peace.’ If a distracting thought does pop into your head, don’t focus on it. Let it go and focus on your mantra.”

Breathing deeply mimics what your body does when you’re relaxed, which sends messages to your brain to calm down.

3. Go for a mid-afternoon walk

Work can be pressure-filled and our always-connected world can increase the tension we feel without us really being aware of it. So take the time to just step away and head outside for a walk around the block.

“It’s best to leave your phone behind when you go for a walk,” says Dr. Chittalia. “This eliminates the temptation of checking email every 30 seconds and allows you to focus on the environment around you. When you do this, you can really appreciate what you’re doing at that very moment.”

A walk outdoors, if possible is also a chance to get some natural light and the vitamin D that comes from sunlight, which can help to ward off feelings of depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

4. Do nothing

Many of us feel pressure to be productive every moment of every day, a mindset that puts a lot of pressure on us as we contemplate all of the activities on our plates during the holidays. But sometimes the best thing you can do is simply stop and turn off your brain for a couple of moments. Don’t surf the internet, don’t answer emails — simply close your eyes and reflect on something positive.

“Small breaks can be very helpful for your mental health. If you’re able to truly disconnect — even better. Electronics prevent you from being ‘in the moment,’” says Dr. Chittalia.

5. Take care of a plant  

Taking care of a plant can help lift your spirits. During the winter, it's not as easy to get outside and enjoy the benefits of nature as it is during warmer months. Buying and taking care of a plant can have the same effects, without having to brave the cold outdoors. Keeping plants in your home also helps you breathe by releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. Some plants are particularly good at purifying the air, such as spider plants and rubber plants.

Plus, taking care of plants just feels good! If you don't have the greenest thumb, do your research on low-maintenance plants. Remember, this is part of your 5-minute “remedies,” so aim for a plant that's easier to take care of during the busy holiday season. 

Next steps: 

Make an appointment with Aliasgar Zakirhusain Chittalia, MD
Learn more about improving your mental health

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