• 8 Surprising Holiday Activities That Relieve Stress

    by Dr. Payal Bhandari
    on Dec 19th, 2016

The holidays are often marked by higher than normal stress levels. For example, you may have a full house, there may be family dynamic challenges, or the shopping rush can be a bit too much. Without proper relief, the stress level will build up and eventually start to hurt your immune system, sleep cycle, and your overall health. It is important to take steps to relax and let go of the stress.  

Here is a list of surprising holiday activities that can reduce stress effectively and keep you happy and healthy.

1. Spending Time with Family and Friends

Many studies have shown that spending time with people you are close to can help you feel happy. Connecting with others and having thoughtful and deep conversations can decrease your stress levels. What a good reason to look forward to family gatherings!

2. Eating Certain Holiday Foods

Having lots of veggies contain potent antioxidants which boost your immune system, help you feel light and less stressed in the long run. On the other hand, having red meat and any kind of fish can be full of toxins like mercury and cadmium. These toxins quickly clog up the liver, hurt the immune system, and cause the body to feel overstressed fairly quickly.

Be careful about having all the tempting foods during the holidays. You will often feel a drop in your energy level and your body not at its best within one to three days.  

3. Healthy Holiday Drinks

Drinking matcha tea instead of coffee can give you a nice balanced energy boost and be surprisingly healthy. Matcha is green tea leaves ground into powder. Matcha contains 25mg per cup of caffeine versus 100mg in a cup of coffee. Matcha also balances blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity, and possibly help burn fat.

4. Being around Light

Who knew that lighting a menorah or switching on Christmas tree lights could have such  positive, stress-reducing effects? During winter, people often suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to less daylight exposure than in summer. SAD can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. Natural light creates positive changes in the brain and improves your emotional response to unpleasant incidents. Just light a candle or head out to your nearest lit-up park to help boost your mood.

5. Smelling Traditional Holiday Scents

The distinctive smell of a Christmas tree or the waxy scent of menorah candles can evoke pleasant, childhood memories. Furthermore, a Japanese study found that breathing in the aroma of pine trees can lower stress levels and depression. When you’re feeling stressed out, focus on your favorite holiday smells to ground you and calm you down.

6. Singing

When we sing, musical vibrations move through our bodies and alter our emotions. Singing lowers stress levels and relieves anxiety, especially when singing with a group. Singing elevates our endorphin levels which evoke feelings of pleasure. Singing also increases oxytocin levels to reduce stress and anxiety. When you need to calm down and feel energized at the same time, get a group together and sing your favorite holiday songs.

7. Spending Time Outside

Spending time outside and inhaling the brisk air into your lungs will lower your stress levels and help you feel rejuvenated. Simple holiday activities such as taking a walk with the family, ice skating, skiing, or sledding is super fun and stress-relieving.

A study found that exercising outside during the winter will more effectively relieve stress compared to indoor exercise. Make the best of the little sun we have during winter – you will also soak up some mood-elevating vitamin D!

8. Giving Back

When we give to others, we often feel more grateful for our own circumstances. Volunteering also takes the focus off our own problems and leaves us with a positive attitude, more energy, and dissipated stress.  

Your local shelter, food bank, or children’s home welcomes your help!  

Find Your Favorite Stress Relieving Holiday Activities

Holidays are supposed to be fun, but we often find that we have too much to do and too little time to enjoy them, which increase our stress levels. Why not take this holiday time to focus on doing quality activities with the family, relaxing, and recuperating from the busy and stressful year?

Enjoy the little holiday traditions and keep your stress levels in check!

Author Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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