The holidays are supposed to be relaxing, joyous and fun, but for millions of Americans they bring stress, anxiety and even depression.
Numerous studies have shown upward of 70 percent of Americans feeling stressed as Christmas bears down on them. A survey by Think Finance revealed that 45 percent of 1,000 respondents would prefer to skip Christmas altogether.
Why has the national mood swung from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?” A lack of time, shortage of money, an excessive amount of expectations and a burdensome commitment to gift-buying are some of the top reasons people list for their stress levels reaching higher than the top of the Christmas tree.
To make the season more enjoyable, and to reduce stress, Dr. Raj Gupta says people should make their overall wellness a higher priority on their long holiday to-do list.
“Physical exercise makes the mental strain of the season much more manageable and can substantially decrease the stress one feels from all the demands,” says Gupta. “Exercise and some refreshing thinking and relaxing techniques help if done on a consistent basis.”
Gupta lists four ways to beat holiday stress:
1. Walk somewhere besides the mall. A brisk half-hour walk a day relaxes the brain and improves sleep. A study by California State University found a 10-minute walk increases energy, alters mood and can bring a positive outlook for up to two hours. “There’s a rhythm to it that relaxes the brain,” Gupta says.
2. Be a “chairman” if you’re bored. Most of working America is sedentary, and now much of shopping America is as well given the growth of online purchasing. A chair dip exercise is a handy way to tone and energize between your computer screen times. You use two chairs facing each other, about 3 feet apart. Sit on the edge of one chair and grip the edge with your hands. Place your heels on the edge of the other chair. Slide forward so your rear end clears the edge, then lower yourself until your elbows are between 45-90 degrees. Slowly push yourself back up. “It works your triceps, shoulders and your core,” Gupta says.
3. Drink heavily … water, that is! Many people over-imbibe during the holidays, and it has a detrimental affect on their wellness. Water brings weight loss and keeps your body in balance for all kinds of stressors. “A whopping 75 percent of all Americans are dehydrated,” Gupta says. “Staying properly hydrated is a panacea for what ails you.”
4. Take time to reflect. In the rush to get everything done, we forget to appreciate what we have. Gupta says pausing to reflect brings a perspective that calms you down. “Take a few moments to really relish your health and all your blessings,” Gupta says. “The holidays are a perfect time to remember all that.”
“People who are over-burdened often make time for everybody and everything but themselves, and that takes a toll,” Gupta says. “People troubled every holiday season by all the pressures must ask themselves, ‘Do I want to enjoy this?’ If so, they need to step away for a few minutes each day.”