Elly McGuinness gives us some tip on keeping stress in check over the ‘silly season’.
The lead-up to Christmas can be a very busy time for many – social get-togethers are on offer for every club, hobby, workplace, and circle of friends that we are involved in. At the same time, most people are still working full-time hours during this pre-Christmas period, shopping for gifts for loved ones, and planning upcoming holidays away.
Many people will perceive the added jobs they need to do as quite stressful and overwhelming, and this can have repercussions for the health of the body. The implications of high levels of stress can be wide-reaching from headaches to skin conditions, increased blood pressure, problems sleeping, fatigue and a decreased ability to burn fat, to name a few.
Top tips to keep stress in check
1. Minimise alcohol consumption
It’s a social time of the year when alcohol consumption increases for many. Be aware that alcohol creates more stress inside the body by making internal organs and systems work harder and can result in a restless sleep. If you choose to drink alcohol, be very mindful of how much and how often, and ensure you drink sufficient extra water to keep your body hydrated. The Ministry of Health recommends no more than two standard drinks a day for women and no more than three for men as well as at least two alcohol-free days every week. Bear in mind these are upper limits, and not guidelines for optimal health.
2. Breathe into your belly
Stressed people will generally breathe in and out of the top part of the chest, which can add to the stress response of the body. ‘Belly breathing’ is an effective way to decrease the stress hormones circulating in the body. It will also stimulate the lymphatic system, which assists in toxin and fluid removal from the body. To practice belly breathing, sit comfortably, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest, and close your eyes. As you take a long, slow breath in, you should first feel the hand on your belly rise as your tummy fills with air. Towards the end of the in-breath, you will feel the hand on our chest rise as air fills this space. Then slowly release the breath and feel both hands lower back in. Start with 5-10 belly breaths every day, and gradually it should become the natural way for you to breathe. Anytime you feel your stress levels rising, take a few deep belly breaths. The tension in your body and your stress hormone levels should start to lower immediately.
3. Say “no”
Consider the things that are critical to maintaining optimal health, such as exercise, eating plenty of whole foods, good-quality sleep and spending time with loved ones. If the number of activities and tasks on your ‘to-do’ list is negatively impacting on these areas, decide what you can say ‘no’ to and offer time to yourself, to care for your wellbeing instead.