This is a fun time of year, but it’s stressful for most people. And here at the YinOva Center I’ve recently been treating a lot of insomnia and neck and shoulder tension.

According to the CDC 85% of diseases have an emotional component, and a 20-year study, conducted by researchers at the University of London, found that unmanaged stress is a more serious risk factor for both heart disease and cancer, than either cigarette smoking or frequent consumption of high cholesterol foods. 

So here are my quick stress reducing tips, which might be particularly useful during this holiday season. 

1. Swap energizing foods for some calming ones.
  • Cut back on coffee, which can make you feel wired. 
  • Limit alcohol (difficult at this time of year, I know!) because it only temporarily releives stress but then has a rebound effect leaving you feeling lower and less able to cope. 
  • Try starting the day with green tea instead.
  • Taking B-vitamins and essential fatty acids can help a lot too. 

2. Breathe.
  • When we get stressed our breath becomes rapid and shallow thanks to the “fight or flight” response initiated by the sympathetic nervous system.
  • When we consciously take slow, deep breaths, we’re stimulating the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which is the one that calms us down.

3. Find a way to relax your muscles and especially your back.
  • Acupuncture is a great way to relieve muscle tension, our YinOva patients always talk about how they float out of our center after a treatment.
  •  Other ways to relieve muscle tension are yoga, massage, reiki and exercise.
  •  If you don’t have much time and notice your back is tense, simply take a minute to shrug your shoulders then relax them and roll them back, making your scapulas (your shoulder blades) move towards each other. 
  • My husband is a big fan of this stress relieving exercise. Take a tennis ball and lie on the floor with the ball under your back. Place it on the muscles beside your spine. Then roll around using the tennis ball to work out the spasms in your para-vertebral muscles.

4. Stay present.
  • Most stress is related to reliving the past or worrying about the future.
  •  Taking a big breath and consciously being here now can really help. 
  • Remind yourself that nothing exists but this moment. The past is over and the future hasn’t happened yet. 

5. Let it out!
  • Most of the physical responses to stress come from feeling pent up. 
  • Repressed emotions make people sick so finding ways to harmlessly let off steam can really help. 
  • Some suggestions – laughing, exercise, therapy, singing, art, writing, music, dancing.

Now if you’re really pushed for time this holiday season, you can do all these at once. Sip some green tea, take a deep breath, remind yourself to be present, roll your shoulders back and let out your tension with a big sigh.

Repeat until you feel calm!
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