Quick breaks can de-stress your holiday
The hustle and bustle of the holidays is here. There are presents to wrap, parties to attend, family to visit, and lots of racing around. Sometimes, our efforts to celebrate holiday joy can turn out to be more stressful than joyous.
According to a 2015 study by Healthline.com, 62 percent of American adults reported feeling stressed around the holidays, with much of the anxiety coming from money concerns.
“It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but a lot of times it can get too frantic to enjoy,” said Dr. Aliasgar Chittalia, an internist at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. “It’s important to not put too much pressure on yourself to try to live up to the ideal of the ‘perfect holiday.’ Take some time this holiday 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 an even keel. Here are five tips for five-minute “remedies” to help you stay sane and healthy during the next few weeks.
Get the day started with gratitude. As we wake up, the things that must get done today begin to infiltrate our mind. 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 can help strengthen your immune system, lessen aches and pains, help you sleep better and give you more satisfaction in your life.
Breathe deeply. You can do this at your desk at work. If that isn’t appropriate, 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 then slowly let the air escape your lungs, taking at least another five seconds. Repeat this ten times (or more).
“Try to concentrate only on your breath and not let all those other distractions enter your mind,” said 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.
Go for a midafternoon walk. Work can be pressure-filled, and our always-connected world can increase the tension we feel without us really being cognizant of it. So 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,” said Dr. Chittalia. “This eliminates the temptation of checking email every 30 seconds, and allows you to focus on the environment around you and 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).
Don’t do something—just sit there! 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 to simply stop and turn off your brain for a couple 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—that’s the key. Electronics prevent you from being ‘in the moment,’” said Dr. Chittalia.
Aliasgar Chittalia, MD, sees patients at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. To schedule an appointment with an internist or primary care provider, please call 800-275-6401 or visit Geisinger.org.