The holidays are just about ready to ramp up. Are you experiencing any symptoms of holiday or other stress?
Here’s a list of a few stress symptoms:
- Feeling out of control
- Neck and shoulder tension
- Low back pain
- Stomach/digestive issues
Anything ringing a bell? Would you add anything to the list? It is said that over ½ of our visits to doctors often have to do with symptoms of stress. Remember, what your mind possesses your body expresses as my colleague Sandie Queen used to say.
So, if these are the symptoms of stress, what exactly is stress?
That’s a good question and not one that many people can answer. Usually we just give the list of our symptoms.
Stress can have many definitions such as an absence of inner peace, any change you encounter. I like the definition that stress is a nonspecific response of the body to any demand placed on it. A more scientific definition is the collective physiological and emotional responses to any stimulus that disturbs an individual’s homeostasis. The holidays definitely falls into this category.
In addition, there are two kinds of stress – distress and eustress. Distress is often defined as a negative stress on the body, mind complex whereas eustress is considered a good stress. For example, stress that helps you finish the project on time or that helps you prep for a big event. The biggest difference between the two, isn’t how your body responds, your body can’t tell the difference between what type of stress you are experiencing, but it has to do with how quickly you return to homeostasis or balance.
With Eustress, once the event or activity is complete, we go back to our regular sense of balance. Distress is often more chronic or on-going. There is no complete relief. Distress is considered our day-to-day stress of living and for some of us this is complex, complicated and difficult to manage. It could be family related, work related, finance related, health related, any number of issues. And usually, it is more than one.
The difficulty with this, is that it keeps us in a heightened state of up regulation or in sympathetic response which creates all kinds of problems for our bodies and minds.
Breaking the cycle of stress is KEY.
Here are some ways to help manage your stress now and later.
Try a restorative or yoga nidra class.
Restorative Yoga is a gentle inward form of yoga that invites participants to move towards greater balance, control and participation in their life. The participant’s body is placed in yoga postures that are supported with props. The mind is invited to slow down with the use of pranayama, visualization and mantra allowing the individual to turn inside. A restorative practice is a complement to any yoga practice or other form of exercise and perfect for almost any practitioner looking to experience a deeper state of relaxation and healing. You can practice a restorative yoga class for free over on my Patreon site HERE.
Yoga nidra literally means “sleep of the yogi.” Yoga Nidra is a guided practice to relax the nervous system and find deep states of rest. Try THIS Yoga Nidra practice I recorded this recently.
Practice Feet up the Wall and turn yourself upside down.
It might not seem like much but when we change our environment and literally turn ourselves upside down, our perspective changes. Not only is getting your feet above your heart for 15 minutes a day able to offset 8-hours of your feet on the ground, it also slows down your heart rate and lowers blood pressure both of which create more calm in the body.
- Place the short side of your mat to a wall.
- Sit with your right hip as close to the wall as possible with your right hand/arm behind you. Reach down into your right hand as you begin to roll onto your back.
- Reach your buttocks as close to the wall as possible.
- Lengthen the back of your neck (use a towel under your head if you need support)
- Stay here for 15-20 minutes.
- To release, bend your knees, roll to one side and stay in fetal position for a few breaths. Then, press up to sitting against the wall for a few breaths.
Know that you just broke the stress cycle.
Find a way to be with yourself for a short time everyday.
Meditation is part of my daily practice, as is writing and sipping my coffee. I also like to go out for short walks on my own to clear my head or think. You might like to write in a gratitude journal,color, paint or knit. Sitting and repeating a special phrase or mantra is also good. You can move or sit. However you choose to spend the time, make it specific and clear that this is the time you are taking for yourself. Let the time you spend expand to something that really serves your needs.
Contemplate what gives you joy each day.
Can you name 5 things right now that give you joy? Try and find things everyday that bring you joy or spend some time reflecting on the joy in your life. Try this Joy Meditation I recorded for the season.
Also consider small things that bring you joy – turn on holiday music or other music and dance, sip hot chocolate and holiday cookies. Change your mood by trying out essential oils like cinnamon, orange and peppermint. Keep your joy list nearby and refer to it regularly.
You don’t always have to say yes. You don’t have to attend every party that you are invited to. Choose wisely – which events will serve you by saying yes, and which will serve you by saying no.