How do you know you have stress? Other than the fact that you are human, you can tell you have stress to release when you have these types of symptoms: breathing is shallow and quick, body is tense, headaches, quick to feel overwhelmed, digestion is off, the cranky monster visits more often, and you just generally just can’t feel settled – relaxation seems a stranger.
Just 30 seconds of effort can reverse this? YES. Every little bit helps – trains your system bit by bit. Every action we do tells our nervous system how we want it to run, particularly intentional actions. When we aren’t paying attention to what we are training our system, life’s go-go-go trains it for us – but not where we want it for optimal wellness. 30 seconds of intentional effort in a healthier direction is not only better than nothing but much better than the rarer longer efforts (one hour yoga class twice a month). While not as effective as my list of 12 Quick, Easy and Potent Stress Busters, because each one of those intentionally involves the body, mind and spirit, these below tools are good in the midst of holiday hustle and bustle. Don’t believe they are potent enough to help you? TRY ME!
Water: Drink a full glass of water. Slowly, breathe, focus.
Move: Stand up and activate your good energies by stretching tall, then walk briskly anywhere. OR Dance: For 30 seconds to whatever motivates you (Christmas tunes on radio? Or put on some Beastie Boys like we do at my house). Rock-out in full enjoyment like no one is watching. This is seriously impactful!
Nap: While I lived in Taiwan it was standard practice, when tired or stressed, to rest your head on your arms (while seated) and close your eyes for a quick “power” nap. This position also sends blood to your forebrain for some additional help.
Connect: Close your eyes and imagine light coming in to each body part as you focus your breath there – head to foot.
More breathing: Take 3 deep cleansing slow breaths – slow and quiet in through the nose and out your mouth when it wants to. Then let the next one come in slowly when it wants to, and repeat.
Massage: Whether just getting you connected to your body or saving you from stress headaches, self-massage is awesome. In 30 seconds you can rub tender areas with thumb or heel of palm following the length of the muscle, roll on a tennis ball (so. good.), or hold a really tight and sore spot (trigger point) for 30 seconds – you’ll notice a release.
Sound: Sound, and the lack of sound, can have mega effects on our state of mind. Sometimes quiet is too much of an uncomfortable stretch or we need some assistance in getting toward relaxation. Listen to some of a recording of CHIME music, with eyes closed (de-stimulating, do you see a theme?). Here’s one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FCZ8azY_wU
Smell something soothing: The olfactory sense is connected directly to our limbic system, the oldest part of our brain, and the part which responds to stress. Working directly with it, telling it, “Every little thing is gonna be alright” is the fastest key to reversing stress symptoms. I suggest keeping a bottle of essential oils handy (purse, pocket, car), preferably rose oil, frankincense or lavender. Sometimes artificial smells can give us a headache, but if you have Scentsy candles that have a soothing smell go ahead and light one. Take a few quiet, deep sniffs (yes, that is breathing, again… anyone see a theme here?) until you feel a shift.
Pray. REALLY. It’s more powerful in immediately shifting your attitude than you might care to admit or remember. I, too, often forget to go right here. Don’t worry about knowing WHO you are talking to or HOW to do it, just do it.
Gratitude: Perhaps you’re sick of hearing about this, as everyone talks about it when the holidays approach. The last thing I feel like doing when I am cranky is stopping to be thankful, BUT it is AMAZING! My kids love it too, sometimes even mid-tantrum – reminds them what they love. So when you notice you are far from thankful, take 30 seconds to think of every little/big thing you are thankful for, here are some from our house to get you thinking:
* All the do-gooding that is done this time of year
* Being able to afford to give presents of any kind
* All the Christmas lights in our neighborhood
* Making it through that light while it was still green
* Warm showers
* Frozen blueberries
See! You are feeling better already! Write them down – they will help you continue to feel generous and forgiving (the holidays makes us all temporarily insane). If you can’t get past what you are frustrated about, then write it out first.
Just as potent as what you do is what you DON’T do. Avoid these simple items to prevent excess stress this holiday season! Even for 30 seconds less than you usually do….?
* Screen time: Instead of jumping on Facebook, turning on the news or watching your favorite show before bed (which is not as relaxing or de-stressing as it may feel), do some yoga, read a book, or do some good breathing (yup, again).
* Sugar snacks and alcohol: Save it for all the holiday parties, on a daily basis find other ways to reward yourself, like a bath with lavender scented bath salts or other ideas seen here.
* Over-booking yourself: Obligation, over-generosity, wishful thinking, and so many fun things to do are a few reasons we over-extend ourselves this year. But it isn’t necessary, no one is counting, and disappointment (amongst all the other glee) is good for you especially when it is for the goodness of your health. Temporary or not, the holidays are not worth over-taxing your system and ability to enjoy yourself.
* Over-spend: Even though that tax return is right around the corner, regular financial stress is bad enough and holiday spending is even more stress, but excess holiday spending to create the “perfect” holiday leaves you stressed long after the season as well. I promise no one is else counting the dollars you spend, but you probably should!
* Ignoring your feelings: “It will all go away after the season is over,” can do more damage than good and is an awful way to spend your season of joy. Talk little things over with your loved ones, journal the harder junk no one else needs to hear (but LET IT OUT please!), and contact your pastor or a counselor for the overwhelming issues. Acknowledging these validates your SELF, releasing these allows you to tap into JOY. It’s like a cup of hot cocoa, you can’t fill it up with more cocoa if the mug is already full of cold cocoa.
* Judging: Love each other for who you are – family, friends, and that stranger who just bought that last sweater you really wanted.
Reading this took more than 30 seconds, but I hope you feel inspired. Happy Healthy Holidays to you and yours from BaredFeet!