Image courtesy of marin at
Image courtesy of marin at

Feeling stressed now that the holidays are in full swing? Need some tips on how to keep your stress in check? Some obvious things to try include sleep, exercise, regular massages and perhaps even a relaxing candlelit soak in a tub of rose petals, sea salts and a glass of wine… ah… But let’s get real, who has time for that?! Here are some far more practical tips for the time-stretched Austinite that will feel like a candlelit bath on-the-go!

Sleep-deprived? Try Viparita-Karani , a.k.a. Legs up the Wall pose. Lay on the floor with your legs straight up the wall or over a chair, couch, bed, or anything that will elevate the legs to roughly a 90 degree angle at the hips. Stay in that position for a minimum of 20 minutes (put on headphones and an eye cover if necessary). It can be as restful to the body as 4 hours of sleep. It also:

  • Eases anxiety and stress
  • Is therapeutic for arthritis, headaches, high or low blood pressure and insomnia
  • Eases symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps and menopause
  • Relieves tired or cramped feet, legs and lower back pain
  • Gently stretches the hamstrings, legs and lower back

Try practicing deep breathing while in this posture to massage the vegus nerve and help elevate oxytocin and serotonin levels. However, keep in mind this exercise is not recommended if you are currently menstruating or pregnant, have glaucoma, or take medication for blood pressure. Like all exercises, talk with your healthcare practitioner before trying.

Another stress reducer includes taking 2000 IUs of vitamin D a day. Between office jobs, school meetings and sunblock, most people don’t get enough direct sunlight for their bodies to produce what is needed to get through the fall and winter months. Vitamin D is critical in maintaining a healthy immune system, supporting bone health and boosting overall mood. Keep in mind that when it comes to vitamin D, more is NOT better. Don’t exceed 4000 IUs a day unless recommended by a healthcare practitioner.

Don’t have time to exercise? First, keep in mind that all the running around you’re probably doing is considered exercise! What you don’t need is guilt on top of normal holiday stress. If you feel like you need more, then lift those grocery bags a few extra times. Park your car at the back of the lot and walk the extra distance at a faster pace. Do a few lunges and squats while you wait for the eggs to boil and the turkey to cook. Coming up with creative ways to work your muscles while completing holiday errands can keep oxytocin and nitric oxide levels high. Both are great for warding off stress and keeping our brain in a more positive state.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water. Half your body weight in ounces will help your system stay hydrated and detox all those yummy holiday splurges like egg nog and mulled wine. Chop up an organic lemon and let it soak in room temperature filtered water to help replenish your minerals. One lemon is good for up to 32oz of water. The lemon peel is full of minerals that our bodies can use to cope with processing out those candy canes.

If you’re in the mood for an herbal supplement to help balance the mind, try Gaia Herb’s Serenity or Dragon Herbs Tao in a Bottle. Serenity may cause sleepiness if anxiety has been keeping you up, so take it at night the first time you use it to see how your body responds. Both supplements work to calm down the nervous system and allow us to enjoy the moment. The feeling of taking these products could be compared to the aforementioned candlelit bath with rose petals and sea salts.

One last suggestion is to keep a journal. In the morning write down whatever comes to mind. This can help to clear your thoughts and help pinpoint specific stresses that may need to be addressed. At night write 3 good things that happened during the day (even if the best thing you can come up with is that you didn’t run out of gas on the way to pick up the kids). This is a way of retraining the brain to look for positives. Neuroplasticity is the scientific term, but it can also be seen as teaching your brain new tricks. Every day has something to celebrate, even if it’s as simple as making it through it. Focusing on the positive will have amazing effects on the way the brain handles stress. Research done by Dr. Emmons, Michael McCullough, Sonja Lyubomirsky and others have linked it to benefits ranging from greater happiness to better sleep quality.

In conclusion, remember to show compassion for not just your loved ones, but also yourself! Everything else is the whip cream on top of the pumpkin pie! 😉

-by Nicole Pinedo, Certified Drugless Practitioner. Nicole is available for consultation at Peoples Central.