Stress less this Christ­mas

It’s sup­posed to be a time of cel­e­bra­tion and joy – but the re­al­ity can ac­tu­ally be packed with pres­sure. So if just think­ing about your shop­ping list causes pal­pi­ta­tions, try these ideas to keep calm.

Prevention (Australia) - - Contents -

If just think­ing of your fes­tive sea­son to-do list makes stress lev­els go off the scale, try these easy ideas to keep calm

Keep up your en­ergy lev­els

Car­bo­hy­drate-rich foods pro­vide en­ergy, so don’t be tempted to ditch carbs as a weight con­trol tac­tic. You’ll only end up feel­ing list­less, and if you reach for food as a pick-me-up, you may overeat. In­stead, rid your diet of pro­cessed prod­ucts such as cakes, bis­cuits and soft drinks, all of which score highly on the gly­caemic in­dex, giv­ing an en­ergy surge that quickly fades. For sus­tained en­ergy you need to opt for healthy snacks such as a hand­ful of nuts, piece of fruit or tub of yo­ghurt.

Chat over a cuppa

Hang­ing out with your girl­friends for a cuppa at a cafe is a fun way to de­brief about any pre-Chrissie blahs. Ac­cord­ing to US re­search, feel­ing emo­tion­ally close to a friend boosts lev­els of the hor­mone pro­ges­terone, which re­duces feel­ings of anx­i­ety and stress. So text your besties asap, hit a cafe and or­der a pot of Earl Grey. While cof­fee trig­gers adrenalin re­lease, tea con­tains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has calm­ing prop­er­ties.

Just breathe

Even tak­ing a deep breath or two can help. “When rushed and stressed peo­ple of­ten take in more than 10 to 12 breaths per minute, this in­creases their anx­i­ety,” ex­plains Dr An­drew Page, Winthrop Pro­fes­sor in the School of Psy­chol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Western Aus­tralia. “This can lead to an im­bal­ance of oxy­gen and car­bon diox­ide (of­ten in­di­cated by yawn­ing), which can in­crease anx­i­ety and stress symp­toms like dizzi­ness.”

For a quick de-stress, “Breathe in for a count of three sec­onds and out for three sec­onds,” Page sug­gests.

Eat to stay calm

The right foods can lift your brain’s lev­els of sero­tonin, a neu­ro­trans­mit­ter that helps you sleep bet­ter and keep calmer. All pro­tein rich foods do this, so in­clude lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds in your diet. Car­bo­hy­drates also bump up this help­ful brain chem­i­cal, giv­ing you yet an­other rea­son not to ban them.

The min­eral mag­ne­sium pro­motes feel­ings of calm and im­proves sleep. It also re­laxes mus­cles and pre­vents ir­reg­u­lar heart­beat. Keep your mood on an even keel with rich sources of this nutri­ent such as brown rice, green ve­g­ies and seafood.

Make a song and dance of it

Make a feel-good playlist, crank it up and sing along when wrap­ping gifts or whip­ping up dessert to take to a Chrissie bar­be­cue. Stud­ies show that singing boosts your re­lease of en­dor­phins, nat­u­ral painkillers that make you feel calmer and hap­pier. It also low­ers lev­els of the stress hor­mone, cor­ti­sol. Singing in a group causes an even big­ger feel-good spike, UK re­search shows. So start an im­promptu sing-along with friends or fam­ily.

Take a com­plaint break

Stuck in a traf­fic jam or a queue at the bank? Don’t tense up or spit the dummy. It takes more en­ergy to get up­set than it does to re­lax. Count the cars, spot the colour blue, do some pelvic floor ex­er­cises or clean out your wal­let and turn the de­lay into a pleas­ant or con­struc­tive break.

Pretty as a pic­ture

Take out old Christ­mas pho­tos and laugh at how cute you or your kids were when lit­tle.

Share other fun me­mories from Christ­mases past – you can even make dec­o­ra­tions us­ing old pic­tures. Just rem­i­nisc­ing over old pho­tos on Face­book is a po­tent mood booster, re­search from Port­smith Univer­sity in the UK shows.

Choose your drinks wisely

Fu­elling up on cups of caf­feine can make sleep more elu­sive and leave you feel­ing edgy at an al­ready stress­ful time of year. Swap cof­fee, tea and soft drinks for herbal teas or sparkling wa­ter. Also, don’t for­get that large quan­ti­ties of al­co­hol not only dis­rupt nor­mal sleep pat­terns but also de­liver a large num­ber of kilo­joules. Your body needs a cou­ple of al­co­hol-free days a week, and the fes­tive sea­son is no ex­cep­tion.

Ap­ply some (pos­i­tive) pres­sure

Us­ing acu­pres­sure can help with en­ergy lev­els.

The points to counter fa­tigue and en­cour­age calm can be found in the crease of the wrist in line with the space be­tween your ring and pinkie fin­ger or the fleshy area be­tween the in­dex fin­ger and thumb. Hold the point for 30 sec­onds, then wait for at least 10 sec­onds be­fore re-ap­ply­ing pres­sure. Re­peat sev­eral times on each hand.

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