Want to Reduce Your Stress Level During the Holidays? Give Yoga and Meditation a Try
The holiday season isn't quite as idyllic as Hallmark movies and commercials promise. Shopping, cooking, baking cookies, and planning parties and gatherings takes a lot of work and is a source of stress for many of us.
In fact, 88 percent of Americans who responded to the Beating the Holiday Burn survey said holidays were stressful for them. Luckily, making time for yoga and medication can make the most wonderful time of the year a little less hectic.
Yoga Relieves Stress Naturally
It's hard to feel calm and composed when you are sitting in a massive traffic jam around the mall or refereeing an argument between your uncle and aunt at a holiday party. As your stress level rises, a few things happen to your body. Stress increases the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, and triggers the "fight or flight" response.
Although you may not be fighting or fleeing, your muscles still tense in anticipation. At the same time, you begin to breathe rapidly, and your heart rate and blood pressure rise. After a while, you may develop a headache, backache, or stomachache and may find it hard to sleep. Although occasional stress may not affect your health, your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and high blood pressure increase if you are frequently stressed.
Yoga relaxes your tight muscles, slows your breathing, decreases your blood pressure, and lowers your cortisol level. Performing yoga poses also prompts your body to increase its production of serotonin, a hormone that improves your mood and helps you sleep better.
Best of all, these changes don't require hour-long yoga sessions. Although longer sessions are certainly beneficial, a 10- or 20-minute session can also help you feel calm, centered, and in control. Yoga can be performed practically anywhere that there is space to unroll your yoga mat. Some poses can even be performed while you are seated at your desk at work.
Meditation Offers a Simple Way to Tackle Stress
Meditation, a crucial component of yoga, also helps you fight holiday stress. When you meditate, you will not be thinking about your holiday to-do list, work, or anything else that stresses you. Instead, you will clear your mind of all thoughts.
Clearing your mind may be easier if you picture a favorite place or repeat a mantra, like the classic "om," when you meditate. It's not always easy to keep your mind clear when you first start meditating but do not let that stop you. If a thought enters your mind, to try avoid getting upset. Acknowledge the thought without giving it emotional weight, then let it drift from your mind.
According to the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, meditation can trigger changes in the brain associated with emotional regulation, attention, bodily awareness, and empathy. The Center notes that practicing meditation also:
- Decreases anxiety and depression
- Helps you avoid obsessing about a problem
- Reduces sleep problems
- Improves immune system function
- Helps you concentrate
You can practice meditation anywhere - at home, in the car, at work, at holiday parties, or while you are shopping. Taking a few minutes to clear your mind with meditation can relieve stress, improve your mood, and give you the patience you need to deal with holiday stressors.
Could you use a little help dealing with holiday stress? Yoga classes offer a fun, effective way to improve your body and your mind. One of our classes is bound to be right for you. Give us a call and we will help you sign up for a class.