Self-Care During the Holidays
Updated: Sep 18, 2020
It seems this year went by so quickly! The holiday season is upon us once again. For many of us, it’s a wonderful time of the year, as we look forward to spending time with family and friends to celebrate the joy of the season. But, in preparation for the holidays, it can become difficult to strike a balance between our daily lives and these additional tasks and obligations.
Holiday stress is often taken for granted, as the pace of life speeds up, we tend to expect much more of ourselves and others. When stress is at its peak, it can be difficult to remind ourselves to stop and regroup.
Chronic stress can disrupt nearly every system in our body, and when not properly managed, can adversely affect our health.
Stress is the body’s way of responding to a demand or threat. When you are presented with a stressor, the hypothalamus releases the corticotrophin-releasing hormone, that sends a message to the pituitary to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone prompts the adrenals to produce cortisol, which prepares your body for the high energy ‘fight or flight’ response. The adrenals also produce adrenaline, which raises your heart rate and increases your blood pressure. These interactions continue until the hormones reach the level your body needs and a series of chemical reactions shut them off.
This complicated set of bodymind relationships and signals which exists between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenals is known as the HPA Axis, is crucial to our existence. When we are faced with continued stress, our adrenals become fatigued. When the adrenals are so depleted they are no longer able to produce or release hormones necessary to react to stressful situations. This leads to a decrease in the levels of other hormones, the neurotransmitters in the brain and body as other parts of the endocrine system attempt to compensate. We can start to feel constantly tired or lethargic, our immune system begins to weaken, and we can also experience sleep disturbances.
Fortunately, there are several easy self-care steps that we can follow to navigate through this time of year.
Start your day with Hydration: Begin your day with 4-8oz of warm water. This simple addition to your life will assist you to hydrate and detoxifying your body. The body is about 70% water, long-term dehydration can lead to headaches, inflammation, circulatory and kidney issues, as well as a list of other maladies. Both alcohol and caffeine drinks are dehydrating to the body. Remember to continue to drink water throughout the day.
Be aware of your Breath: Deep breathing is one of the fastest ways to lower stress in the body. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress. Start by bringing your awareness below your navel, this is the center of the body, close your eyes if this will help you to bring your attention down from your head. Then, take a deep breath; first fill the chest, then the abdomen, continue to increase the breath to include the extension of the back ribs. Exhale slowly. Repeat 5-7 times. Using aromatherapy nasal inhalers are the perfect way to create a deep breathing pattern, use 3-6 times a day.
Exercise: Although it may be challenging to maintain a regular exercise routine during the holidays, it is essential to move the body and release tensions on a daily basis. Even if this is done in several 10-15 minute intervals during the day. Try a few minutes of stretching, yoga, dancing, or a short walk into nature that will reduce stress, encourage restful sleep, and keep us grounded. Taking time every day to exercise will reduce tensions, increase your overall well-being and immunity.
Healthy Nutrition: The average American diet is deficient in vital nutrients and this is seems to be magnified during the holidays. Proper nutrition, limiting alcohol and caffeine are important to promote restful sleep, overall health and well-being. Choosing more protein and vegetables for your meals can reduce tendencies to fill up on sweets. Including a daily vitamin B supplement can also assist to lower the stress response.
Sleep: When the body is stressed, a double-edged sword exists in terms of sleep. It is often the first thing we neglect in order to meet our demands, yet inadequate rest makes it difficult to maneuver through a stressful day. Depriving your body of sleep has been associated with many health risks and places a burden on every organ system in the body.
Self-care is critical during the holiday season.