According to the latest Stress in America report, a whopping 75 percent of Americans reported that they had experienced at least one stress symptom within the last month. Forty-five percent of Americans admitted to lying awake at night as a result of stress.
Though the holiday season is packed with festivities and cheer, the added demands can be a source of stress for many people. If your holiday to-do list has got you wound up, try these stress-busting activities for a moment of calm.
1. Brew a cup of tea.
If tea is part of your daily ritual, you’ve got a leg up! Results from a randomized, double-blind University College London study found that subjects who consumed black tea were able to zen out a little more quickly than those who consumed a placebo beverage.
The study found that after engaging in stressful activities, subjects who had drunk black tea daily for six weeks had lower cortisol levels and felt more relaxed once stressful activities were completed than subjects in the placebo group.
If you avoid caffeine or just prefer an herbal brew, reach for calming chamomile or peppermint tea – both known for reducing stress and promoting a restful sleep.
2. Hug it out.
As humans, we crave touch. Often referred to as the “love hormone,” oxytocin has been linked to stress regulation in a number of studies. The hormone is released when you hug your partner, your kids and even your pets.
A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study found that people who reported frequent hugs with their significant others had higher oxytocin levels and lower blood pressure than those who reported little or no contact.
While you don’t have to say “yes” to every holiday invitation you receive, keep in mind that occasions where you’ll feel close to family and friends may ease stress as well as bolster your health.
According to experts from Mayo Clinic, meditation is a fast and easy way to reduce stress. The mind-body practice can be done almost anywhere, helping you focus on the present while reducing feelings of negativity and increasing self-awareness.
One type of meditation that has been studied extensively for its stress-reducing benefits is mindfulness meditation, a practice that involves being fully present in the moment while being guided by the sensation of breath.
Other types of meditation such as guided meditation or mantra meditation may also prove helpful. Apps like Headspace with easy, 10-minute exercises are a great place to start for those who are interested in starting a new meditation practice.
4. Get some sunlight.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that about six percent of Americans experience during the winter months. To help ease the symptoms, experts recommend spending time outside during daylight hours or sitting next to a window.
On cloudy or rainy days, or when you’re just too busy to see the light of day, getting natural light may not be possible. Light therapy from a device known as a light therapy box that gives off a bright light has been a very successful treatment for those with symptoms of SAD. According to an article on the disorder published in the journal “Psychiatry,” between 60 – 80 percent of SAD sufferers reap benefits from light therapy.
According to a Harvard Health publication, aerobic exercise is key for both your head and your heart. Clinical studies have found that exercise has the ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety and clinical depression. The mental benefits of exercise include reduction in levels of the body’s stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. At the same time, exercise also promotes the release of endorphins, those feel-good brain chemicals associated with “runner’s high” that are known to elevate mood.
Seeing the results of exercise such as improved strength and endurance and maybe even a whittled waistline works wonders for your state of mind, which may boost your general well-being.
6. Abandon tradition.
If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, the idea of the upcoming holiday season may leave you feeling sad and lonely instead of raising your spirits. This can cause a great deal of stress.
Instead of sticking to holiday traditions of the past, opt for doing something that will bring you joy today. Whether that means a festive meal at a restaurant with your loved ones or a solo vacation, whatever feels right to you is the right choice. A change of scenery may be just what you need to de-stress and develop a positive outlook in time for the new year.
7. Try CortiX.
The proprietary blend includes ashwagandha, bacopa, and rhodiola rosea, all powerful herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine with known stress-relieving properties.
CortiX also contains phosphatidylserine (PS), a phospholipid found in all cell membranes. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that short-term supplementation with PS was effective at reducing exercise-induced stress and promoting a healthy hormonal balance in athletes.
Also included in the formulation are l-theanine and gamma-aminobutyric Acid (GABA), two amino acids known for their calming effects and ability to enhance mood.
By Karen Morse, MPH