Holidays are a time for you to connect with your family and share gifts with the people you love. However, the pressure of preparing for holiday parties and trying to get gifts that everyone will like can become stressful and create a lot of tension rather than joy.
As a result, many people end up getting tense and holding that stress in their bodies. If you find your skin breaking out more than usual, or feel tired and achey all the time around the holidays, it’s possible that you’re holding too much stress in your body.
When you get stressed, the fight or flight response activates in your body. Your brain floods various body systems with stress hormones to get ready for potential danger. Activating the relaxation response reverses that and brings the stress levels in your body down, slowing down your heart and helping your muscles ease up.
You don’t have to just deal with holding on to that added stress, even if you are short on time. There are many ways to relieve tension in your body so your holidays will be a little less stressful. Some of them only take a few minutes, and some of them take a little longer.
Here are some of the most recommended techniques out there. Many of these methods can be used at any time, so if you notice your stress while you are out and about, you work on it right then. Other methods take a while, but taking the time to relax can give you more energy to tackle your holiday to do list.
Breathing meditations are some of the easiest ways to release tension in your body. You don’t have to know any fancy techniques or rely on having a script or recording at the ready to assist you.
There are many different types of breathing meditations. The types of techniques available to you differ depending on what symptoms you want to address. Almost any type of breathing meditation will help you control your stress and activate the relaxation response.
Deep breathing makes your oxygen exchange more efficient, as it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your body that tells your brain it’s time to rest and relax. It’s the opposite of what the sympathetic nervous system does, which is to get your body ready for action. When you breathe deeply, you’re telling the parts of your brain that control the autonomic nervous system that you are safe and not in danger.
Harvard Medical School found that being able to control your breath is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. Breathing from your diaphragm instead of your chest is a great way to make sure your body gets the exact amount of oxygen you need, not too much or too little.
As long as you pay attention to the breath moving in and out of your body, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of breathing as a stress reduction technique.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
If you haven’t tried it before, progressive muscle relaxation might seem a little counterintuitive. The practice requires you to tense up different muscle groups in a particular order and then release them to get stress relief. This technique is especially helpful if you carry stress in different parts of your body, like your shoulders or jaw.
This technique works best if you practice it regularly. Those with experience say that regular practice helps them know when their muscles are tense and when they are relaxed. With time, they can use this knowledge to simply relax their muscles instead of needing to tense them first.
Try to set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day to experience relief from the stress you tend to carry in your body. If you don’t know how to go through a progressive muscle relaxation, check out some guided walkthroughs on YouTube to get started.
You may have already used guided meditation without realizing it. Guided meditation is simply a term for going through any kind of meditation with someone to help you through the process. Whether you have gone to a yoga class and have had an instructor help you learn to breathe, or listened to a YouTube video to visualize a solution to a problem you face, there are many forms that guided meditations can take.
Deepak Chopra is a great source for guided meditations. He is an expert in the mind-body healing field, and has created many resources for those who are looking for ways to heal from stress or health concerns. You can check out some of his free resources here.
If you want to try some guided meditations, we have many of them available to you on our soundcloud page, or in the Spire app. These meditations range from only taking a minute or two, to lasting a little over ten minutes.
YouTube is also a great place to find guided meditations. You can find a meditation full of imagery to help you let go of the stress and get to a place of relaxation, or help with the worries you might be facing about a particular issue in your life. Simply go to the search bar and type “guided meditation” + whatever issue is on your mind and you’ll find plenty of videos to assist you.
Yoga helps reduce tension in your body because of the holistic mind-body approach it was founded on. Different poses move various parts of your body while requiring your concentration to maintain the breath.
The great thing about yoga is that there are many styles to choose from. When most people think of yoga, they think of Hatha Yoga, which is the physical movement of the poses. Kundalini Yoga focuses on your energy, and Restorative Yoga is designed for restoration and helping you relax.
Yoga can also help you release any emotional energy you might be holding on to. During stressful times like the holidays, emotions are often running high, which can create conflict in situations that normally wouldn’t have any.
If stress gets you too wired, more active yoga poses can help you burn some of the tense energy in your body. Or, if stress tires you out, you can turn to restorative poses to bring in more energy and face the demands of the holiday season.
Massage or Spa Treatments
Massage is well known for its relaxation benefits. Making an appointment with a local masseuse has a multitude of benefits that result in a more relaxed body. These include:
- Loosening stress knots
- Improving blood flow
- Releasing nerve compression
- Inducing the relaxation response
If the thought of a total stranger touching you is too weird, there are also many different kinds of spa treatments you can utilize. At home face masks are a great way to clear toxins from your face and reduce any tension you might be holding there.
If all else fails, you can always draw up a bath full of relaxing essential oils like lavender and jasmine to help your mind realize it’s time to relax.
You don’t have to stick with just one type of relaxation. If one method doesn’t work for you, feel free to try another one. You should do what works best for you. Once you have a technique you can use regularly, it’ll be easy for you to implement it in almost any situation. The most important thing is to find time for yourself to help relieve some of that stress.