The holiday season should be a time of celebration, so don’t let stress take the joy out of this magical time of year
Characterized by jolly St. Nick, Christmas carols and the flickering candles of the menorah, this season is supposedly a time of peace and joy.
Unfortunately, for many, December signifies emotional turmoil characterized by anger, frustration, guilt, low self-esteem, despair and fear. In addition to general day-to-day stress, we face the added financial crunch of the holidays, a whirl of social obligations and rounds of gift-giving. If you’re a list maker, right now your to-do list probably reads like a battle plan.
Rather than bury negative thoughts and worry about the health hazards of chronic stress, why not get to the root of the problem? For example, family reunions can be accompanied by unpleasant memories and old, perhaps unhealthy, ways of communicating. Resentments and expectations may resurface, resulting in feelings of inadequacy and anger. Rather than upset family celebrations, we may repress our feelings. Suppressed emotions result in increased stress levels which, in addition to interfering with our ability to handle day-to-day pressures, burden the immune system and increase susceptibility to winter viruses.
Finding the time and strength to acknowledge and work through negative emotions can help us find peace within ourselves, allowing us to cope with holiday pressures and truly experience the joy of the season. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or stressful situation, excuse yourself to find a quiet place to confront your feelings. It’s essential to let yourself truly feel your emotions — breathe deeply and feel with every breath.
Stressful emotions result from stagnated energy in one of our organ systems. Each of the combination remedies she recommends is believed to work by affecting the organs associated with various feelings. For instance, fear relates to the kidneys and bladder. Low self-esteem relates to the pancreas; despair corresponds to the stomach and can be characterized by stomach problems such as ulcers. Perhaps most importantly, you must treat the holidays as a blessing — a time for feeling and finding peace — rather than a dreaded time of stress and uncomfortable emotions.
Types of stress associated with the basic daily demands of our fast-paced society and aggravated by holiday pressures requires – especially learning to say yes to what’s truly meaningful to you rather than getting locked into obligations. Giving in to holiday pressures can overwhelm you with duties that you don’t find meaningful or even enjoyable. For instance, if mailing holiday cards to a list of names as long as your arm makes you feel guilty for wasting both -paper and time, choose another way to express your love and appreciation.
Holiday eating can be a source of stress both during and after the season of celebration. Overindulgence can lead to physical discomfort later. This doesn’t mean you should practice deprivation. For instance, if you love chocolate and don’t normally eat it, purchase a little of the very best. Look for organically grown and produced chocolate.
The traditional rounds of holiday parties can put the best of intentions to the test. Even if you’ve vowed to eat healthfully this season, you may find yourself posted by the eggnog or chips and dip as you nibble and sip, chatting with friends and catching up on the latest news. If healthy eating is an issue for you, make the occasion easier for yourself by bringing something you like. A host will always appreciate a gift of food.
Similarly, if you’re a vegetarian and the rest of your family prefers to eat meat, rather than preach your values and create family tension, bring a substitute dish and give your family the opportunity to try it. Don’t be insulted, however, if they don’t like it. Remember that you’re not the only guest, so be a kind one. Don’t expect everyone else to adopt your values, but you don’t have to adopt theirs either.
In addition to releasing emotional tension, exercising and practicing personal relaxation techniques, it’s essential to support your immune system nutritionally during the holidays. Not only can this prevent you from succumbing to winter colds and flus, it can also help you better cope with day-to-day stress and the added pressures of the season.
During times of elevated stress, the body uses nutrients more rapidly and it becomes necessary to replenish your system to prevent further physical stress caused by nutrient deficiency.
In particular, B vitamins, especially B6, aid in the optimal function of the nervous system. A B6 deficiency alters nerve function and increases the likelihood of stress-related symptoms such as depression and irritability. Vitamin C depletion, especially in the adrenal and pituitary glands, is common during times of high stress.
In addition to supporting the immune system, this vitamin may minimize the negative effects of excess stress hormones (adrenaline and norepinephrine), which can cause problems such as magnesium depletion. Magnesium deficiency increases stress hormone secretion, which can contribute to problems associated with stress such as irritability and poor concentration. To help avoid this problem, supplement with magnesium or eat magnesium-rich foods such as lentils, bananas, beets and asparagus.
Avoid the typical American diet, which is characterized by excessive fat, sugar and caffeine. In addition to weakening the immune system, such foods may actually serve to aggravate tension and stress. Even though caffeine-containing foods such as chocolate and coffee may give the illusion of a temporary “lift,” they actually deplete the body’s nutrient stores and can make you more nervous.
Too often the holidays creep up on us. Rather than save everything until the last minute, prepare by caring for yourself year-round. Prevention is the best method for reducing stress in your life.