November ushers in the holiday season—bringing with it great expectations for memorable and festive times with family and friends. For many of us, however, this time of year is also tinged with stress, tension, or ennui.
As you navigate another holiday season filled with joy, merriment, and perhaps the occasional uncomfortable exchange at a social gathering, these stress reduction tips may help you keep seasonal strains at bay.
Energize with Exercise
We all know exercise can be an effective stress management tool, but did you know that many studies also show that stress actually may reduce physical activity? While some individuals cope with stress through exercise, many others find that stress impairs their efforts to be physically active.
If your stress levels are inhibiting your ability to be physically active, this can be a double (or triple) whammy. How can you get out of a rut?
If stress is mounting, setting unreasonable expectations and not meeting them could be an additional stressor. If high intensity exercise is out of reach, consider gentle exercise like walking, yoga, stretching, tai chi, or low intensity weight lifting.
Ease into an exercise routine with little goals you can consistently meet to increase movement and exercise, and amp up the intensity as you reap the benefits from less intense activities.
And remember, you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to physical fitness. Consider enlisting the help of a personal trainer, either for yourself or for a loved one. Personal trainers can help you choose the best exercise plan that is tailored to your specific needs and wellness goals, all while offering an accountability partner!
Mellow Out with Massage
Massage therapy is a wonderful gift to consider for the holidays, whether it’s a gift you give yourself or another. Many massage therapists offer gift certificates during the holiday (and you could even consider a couples massage).
What a great way to unwind from the holiday seasons and usher in a new year and wellness resolutions! If supporting local businesses is something you are passionate about, booking a treatment with a massage therapist may be a great way to support one of your local businesses.
You might also consider booking a massage therapy session to handle the stress before holiday get togethers. Perhaps holiday decorating led to a muscle strain, or maybe the crowds at shopping centers have left you stressed. Consider getting a massage treatment so that you are relaxed and pain-free at social gatherings.
Lastly, nothing can create a stressor during the holidays like the pain of the loss of loved ones. Consider massage therapy as an additional tool for coping with grief this holiday season.
Restore Inner Peace with Meditation, Mindfulness, or Relaxation Techniques
Recent research is showing that ancient relaxation practices such as meditation, mindfulness, or breathing exercises may be great tools to add to your stress reduction toolkit.
A recent systematic review on studies of meditation and mindfulness for stress shows that meditation is linked to reduction of a wide variety of physiological markers of stress—including cortisol, blood pressure, heart rate, and triglycerides.
And not to add to your holiday budget: a number of free guided meditations are available online! Consider visiting the IMCW library, Tara Brach’s website, UCLA’s website, or this list of recommendations from the Mindful.org website.
One last relaxation technique you may have not considered is progressive muscular relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation focuses sequentially on the major muscle groups. Tighten each muscle and maintain the contraction 20 seconds before slowly releasing it. Read tips for techniques here.
Generate an Attitude of Gratitude
“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life,” said the mystic poet Rumi.
Gratitude is a way for people to become more appreciative of what they already have instead of continually aspiring for something new in the hopes it will make them happier or instead of thinking they can’t be satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude can help people focus on what they have rather than lack.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Click here for ways to enhance gratitude and increase emotional resilience.
Center through Service
Gandhi is oft-quoted, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” When it comes to off-setting personal stress, community service can help renew your sense of giving, compassion and kindness.
Often times the “true meaning” of the holiday season can get lost in the flurry of to-do items. One way to reconnect with the meaning of the holidays and manage stress in the process is to volunteer. Consider reaching out to a local charity, soup kitchen or religious organization and getting involved. Random acts of kindness may also brighten your holiday season.
This holiday season, remember that the most important person to take care of is YOU.
About The Institute for Therapeutic Massage
At The Institute for Therapeutic Massage, we understand that starting a new career is both exciting and overwhelming. We have helped thousands of men and women just like yourself to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to have a successful career in massage therapy. In as little as seven months, our flexible programs can provide students with the in-depth training they need to begin the next stage of their lives. Our program protocols also fit all the criteria for proper licensing in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, helping graduates get started in their new careers right away. If you would like more information regarding a career in massage therapy, please contact our friendly admissions team for further assistance.