For a lot of people the holiday season is a season of stress. 

If you happen to be one of these stressed out people, at any time of the year, what can you do? 

Stress takes a major hit on your health. That’s no surprise. 

Did you know there is an American Institute of Stress? That’s how dominant stress is. 

Some of the problems of prolonged stress include:

  • inhibits your immune system (that means getting sick easily because the body is trying to bring you back to harmony) 
  • hormones are disrupted (low testosterone for men, wonky periods for women, etc)
  • it can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes 
  • high blood pressure
  • forgetfulness, lack of focus 
  • acne
  • digestive issues
  • headaches

Obviously I could go on… but by now you’re probably thinking “doc, are you trying to stress me out?”

I don’t want to stress you out. 

But if you see what stress does, you might take my recommendations to de-stress more seriously! 

Tip #1: Breathe Right

You read that right. I didn’t just say breathe. I said breathe right. 

During stress your body is running in the sympathetic part of your nervous system. That is fight / flight / freeze. That means your breathing is shallow. 

Just changing how you breathe can actually dictate which part of your nervous system is running the show (shallow and hurried – sympathetic; deep and calm –  parasympathetic – rest / digest / heal). It’s your choice (which is pretty awesome, because now you can use it to your advantage). 

So how can you breathe right? You’ve got options, pick one that feels best to you!

4 square breathing – breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat. 

You can vary the count length as you need, just keep them all the same. 

4 – 2 – 6 breathing – breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 2, exhale for 6 counts. Repeat. By exhaling longer than inhaling you are telling your brain everything is fine, calm down. 

One Nostril breathing – using your index finger to hold one nostril shut, breathe in. Switch to holding the other nostril shut, breathe out. Repeat. You can also switch which side you breathe in through after a few breaths. 

Tip #2: Give Yourself a Timeout 

I know you feel like you don’t have enough time already. In part that’s because you’re doing too much at once and ignoring your own natural rhythm. 

The body naturally goes through a specific cycle that can last 60-90 minutes depending on the person. 

That means there are times when we need to slow down and recharge. This is one of the reasons many people feel tired in the afternoon – they’ve been pushing for too long and the body will make herself heard eventually. 

Giving yourself a timeout can help prevent that afternoon crash, as well as letting you feel less stressed and more focused (heck, you might even enjoy yourself). 

What does this timeout look like? Whatever you like! 

  • It can be as simple as lingering over a cup of tea or coffee for a few minutes extra, just staring off into space. 
  • Actually, it may be deciding to go make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. 
  • Maybe you want to read a few pages in a great book. 
  • You could chat a bit with whatever family member or friend is around (you know, enjoying the people you have around)

This is not wasting time. It is letting yourself be present. It recharges you. 

In my experience, anything I do afterwards flows far better and with far more ease!  

Tip #3: Set Reminders

No, not for you to do list. 

Set reminders for yourself to breathe. Or to check in with yourself – are you carrying stress anywhere in your body, how are you feeling, do you need a break? 

Some of my personal reminders include: “only love is real” and “I accept happiness now.” 

Part of the issue with stress is that we can get so wrapped up in it that everything looks like stress and insurmountable, while simultaneously not realizing we’re in stress mode. 

These reminders can help cut through that. They interject positivity and give you the time and space to check in with yourself. 

While I did write this now during the Christmas season because I hope that you get to enjoy it a bit more from now on, these tips are for year-round application. 

These tips may seem minor, but they affect you at a cellular level in a true physiological way. That’s why they are so powerful. 

It’s funny, because if I were to give a huge, intricate new approach, people would brush it off because it’s too much and no way can that be integrated into daily life. 

When they are small shifts to ease your day and ultimately guide you towards a better, natural life, people want to brush it off as too minor that it couldn’t possibly make a difference. 

Don’t fall for that trap! Just give these tips an honest try and relish the fact that you’re doing good things for your health and wellbeing. 

Here’s how to have a Healthier Gut