The holidays are fun. Especially with children. But they can also be stressful and for some people just downright depressing dealing with gatherings, gift giving and bittersweet nostalgia that's often evoked this time of year.
Managing your stress and keeping yourself from sliding down the chimney into the holiday blues or getting wound up in a winter anxiety frenzy can often be a little tricky. Lord knows (and Saint Nick) it can be for me.
Here are some of tips you may find useful and some resources for further exploration.
Meditation and mindfulness has been shown to greatly reduce depression and anxiety. Considering research results and the fact that there are no known harmful side effects, some pros even say it’s better than medication.
“Mindfulness meditation” seems to be the key. The experts say “mindfulness meditation” can be any form of “meditation” where you bring your attention to a physiological response, like breathing.
Here is a simple breathing exercise I often use and recommend; Yogic or 90/90 breathing
I’ll also do some Tai Chi or Chi Gung, focusing my attention on sensing the flow or rhythm of the movement in conjunction with my breath. Here is a little Chi Gung series https://youtu.be/ixAoTrx76rY that may also help. If you’re interested in learning Tai Chi reach out. The practice of Tai Chi has helped and continues to help me tremendously in this department.
Get your sweat on!
Research has shown that those who don’t exercises are 44% more likely to suffer from depression than those who do. So get your sweat on!
For me getting my heart rate up and breaking a sweat, especially doing something I enjoy, has a huge impact on my mood. All the “feel good” hormones get released and my body feels nice and clean!
What to do?...Any kind of cardiovascular activity that’s somewhat repetitive and doesn’t necessarily require a lot of skill; running, cycling, punching a heavy bag or mits, swimming. Do something you enjoy!
How long?...Well, there is research suggesting that walking as little as ten minutes can elevate your mood. However, the current health standard is two and a half hours of moderate intensity physical activity per week. So, I would say at a minimum get in 3-5, thirty minute sessions in each week, pending the activity and the intensity.
Lift weights to reduce anxiety
Budding research has shed some light on how lifting weight or resistance training can help ease and even prevent anxiety.
I’m glad “experts” are starting to catch up on this. I always feel so much better after lifting weights. It allows me to release some aggression and act like an animal for a while.
Here is a total body workout https://youtu.be/Le-l3WZ5oUg you can do at home with minimal equipment. Don’t have the equipment? Well, you're in luck. It's Christmas...ask Santa!
Sleep my child, sleep!
It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to draw the connection between sleep and mood. Making sure you get adequate sleep (7-8 hours for most of us) is key to ward off depression and anxiety.
If you’re following the advice above you should find it easier to fall asleep and stay sleeping. There is nothing like a good workout and some relaxing mindfulness meditation to help you sleep.
Just remember it is a practice. Don’t expect to workout once for 10 minutes, meditate for 20 seconds and expect to be snoozing away when your head hits the pillow. It can take time to cultivate.
Still having issues go see a naturopathic doc or health practitioner who takes a holistic approach to healing the body, not just someone whose solution is to pump you full of meds for an unknown period of time.
Get your feast on just watch the sugar
Eating healthy is muy importante, but sometimes you just gotta let go of the restrictions and feast. Especially during the holidays.
That being said, research has shown people who eat a diet high in sugar and other high glycemic carbs are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than those who don't.
So pass on the crackers, chips and package desserts. See if a square of dark chocolate will stave off that sweet tooth or bake your own desserts using healthier fats and sweeteners. Also, try a little crudite for that crunchy fix.
Take on the attitude of gratitude.
Taking on an attitude of gratitude does more than help ease your depression and anxiety. It can also have a profound impact on your health, relationships.
A simple practice I have is writing down three things I’m grateful for in a journal I keep beside my bed.
I’d be lying if I said I did this all the time. There are definitely days I don’t, usually when I feel like I’m on top of the world. However, when I’m in the dumps this always helps.
Don’t try to force anything, just write down something undeniable. I usually start with my beautiful wife, amazing daughter and that I get to live in paradise. After that I’m good! My mood changes and I could write a list a mile long.
Hang with friends
Socialize...This is a no brainer, right!? Being with others just makes you feel better.
Excuse me...Let me rephrase...Being with people you enjoy makes you feel better. So this holiday season forget the obligation and hang out with people you like and feel good around. Especially if you’re an introvert.
Socializing has been shown to be beneficial for extroverts suffering from the blues. However, for introverts it can often make matters worse. For introverts the experts recommended having a meaningful conversation with someone you truly connect with.
Well, there it is folks...I hope you find this helpful or at least remotely entertaining.