Holiday Stress? Five Helpful Tips to Thrive This Season

It is that time of the year again, and the stress has started to mount all around us. The decorations are out, the traffic is bad, and people are making all sorts of plans to get together. Do you want to optimize your experience of the holiday season? If so, have a look at the tips below.

1) Don’t go crazy with the food, and 2) Keep exercising. Certainly you are welcome to try all of the appealing dishes you encounter if you want, but just have a little of each one for the taste, not to fill up. As you know, some of the seasonal holiday food is not particularly health-promoting. The culprits are various sweets, fatty foods, and alcohol when its consumption gets out of hand. If you don’t eat holiday food like this everyday (and hopefully you do not), consuming a temporary diet high in these foods can cause some noticeable digestive symptoms like indigestion and bloating. The holiday season is the time that many people can pick up weight if they are not careful; the food combined with less activity as a result of operating off of the normal schedule can make weight gain more probable. Don't let it happen to you. Be one of those people who doesn’t have to make a new year’s resolution to get healthy or, more specifically, to get back in the gym on a well-intentioned, but often short-lived, exercise kick. Continue (or start!) to include exercise as part of your normal schedule before, during, and after the holidays.

3) Dress properly. Here in Atlanta, the weather can be both unseasonably warm and cold. Temperatures, wind, and precipitation can feel extreme, and the weather can change relatively quickly over the course of a day at times. Atlanta is a city of transplanted individuals, and I see far too may people who hail from warm climates like southern India, the Caribbean or Pacific Islands (Hawaii, the Philippines) who have not developed a habit of wearing proper shoes for the cooler weather in winter here. I know they are used to wearing light shoes without socks year-round, but I always ask them to please put on some socks and heavier shoes in the winter. Actually, when I go to Japan in the hottest and most humid days of summertime, I notice that many Japanese people wear socks and shoes in the summer, too. Tokyo’s  weather is similar to Atlanta’s weather. I am a native of the Southeastern US, so I was also a habitual wearer sandals all the time in summer. But when I tried the sock and shoe routine that I observed in Japan, my feet and body did not feel hot nor sweaty as a result; I felt comfortable even in the heat. You don’t necessarily need to go that far, but please cover your feet and lower legs in the winter months. This is good for your overall health. Also, I encourage you to wear your winter clothes at this time of the year. Even on warm days, remember that the atmosphere (bare trees, few flowers, etc.) confirms that we are living in fall and winter, and thus you should not be dressing as if it is summer. Even if you wear a lighter weight fabric, for instance, still wear a long sleeve and long pants with socks and shoes, and always take a jacket or a sweater with you wherever you go. Please, no flip flops outside in between the official start of fall on Sept. 21 and late May, no matter how warm it feels out there. Dressing for the season is more important in the cold months than in the hot ones. If you have long hair, don’t get it cut short all of a sudden. The sudden loss of that much hair could be shocking to your system in cold weather. Your hair helps regulate your sensation of temperature, and when it is gone all of a sudden, adjusting to the new style in winter can be challenging. Make such adjustments in the warm seasons.

4) Notice how you’re feeling. For some people, the holidays can bring up painful emotions and memories. Maybe you will have to spend some time in the company of someone whose input you could do without. Just do your best. You might have to try to carve out time for yourself within the visit. Try to do so without being anti-social. Stay in the present moment and find something to like about the circumstances. Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT for short, can be a good, quick method to use when you are getting frustrated or angry in your situation, or if you just have something bothering you that you know you need to face. You can Google ‘EFT’ and find a demonstration of the technique that you shows you how to copy the moves. The EFT areas for tapping are all acupuncture points, and tapping them through EFT is a way you can stimulate them at home and get a nice result. Don’t worry if you are not sure of the exact location or pressure to use while tapping. Just try the technique and see if you feel some uplift regarding an uncomfortable emotional state.

5) Come in for acupuncture treatment to help strengthen your ability to deal with the holiday stressors. There is no need to handle it all by yourself. We can get your circulation balanced again by working on those tight or uncomfortable areas, and we can also help your system relax so you can get through these potentially challenging times with lightness and ease.

The holidays always seem to bring some stress, but there are things that you can do today and everyday that will help the season to be more fun and relaxed despite the frenzied pace. Enjoy!

Kerri Winston, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in Atlanta, Georgia's Buckhead area. If you are interested in learning more about how acupuncture can help you or your loved ones, please call 404-949-0550 or send email to [email protected].