Maintaining a Balance During the Holidays
Tips for reducing stress and gaining energy to make your holidays healthy and bright
The holidays can be an extremely stressful time, thanks to social obligations, family expectations and travel. The trick is to keep your energy balanced and not allow the holidays to drain your energy and, thereby, derail your health.
“We need to look at health in a new way — as energy,” suggests Marco De la Cruz, MD, a family medicine physician at Rush who has been specializing in stress management and nutritional medicine for almost two decades. De la Cruz points out that stress means more energy going out than energy coming in. “In fact, we often say that you’ve ‘overextended’ yourself when referring to this imbalance.”
“The concept of health can seem vague and difficult to measure, but when we think of it in terms of personal energy levels, we can see that a lifestyle change, like exercising or eating well, has given us more energy,” De la Cruz adds. “We feel healthier (more energized) than we did before the change.”
“We must look at our health holistically, take a mind-body approach to increasing our energy,” says De la Cruz. “Our health is not only what’s going on in the body, it’s also affected by the mind and the spirit. You need to nurture all these aspects of yourself to stay in balance and maintain optimal personal energy and health.”
Tips for staying balanced:
- Eat well: Eat healthful whole foods, avoid refined sugars and drink plenty of water.
- Be active: Walk, run, play with your children or grandchildren, organize a family exercise. But remember: Check with your physician before starting any exercise program.
- Get plenty of rest: Recharge your body with sufficient sleep at night and quiet moments during the day.
- Be aware of your breath: This simple act of being aware of how you’re breathing can reduce your stress considerably. Try to breathe deeply and slowly.
- Change your attitude: Maintain a positive and nonjudgmental attitude.
- Be grateful for all the wonderful things in your life: Express your appreciation to your family and friends, and take some time every day to think of all your have to be grateful for.
- Set aside time for yourself: Even if it’s just 20 minutes to sit and have a cup of tea or read your favorite novel, you need quiet time that’s yours alone.
- Change your inner dialogue with positive affirmations, such as “I am loved,” “I deserve to be happy,” “Today is a great day,” etc.
- Forgive someone: The holidays are a great time to forgive and forget if you have been holding on to bad feelings toward a person you feel has wronged you.
- Read an inspirational reading: Take time every day to read something that inspires you, whether it’s a short passage of inspiration or a selection from the holy book of your tradition.
- Pray: Take time to pray or be contemplative. “Prayer and gratitude are great ways to boost your energy,” says De la Cruz.
- Meditate: This is another great way to prevent stress. Begin with short periods of counting your inhalations as you allow your thoughts to fall away. Breathe in “one,” breathe out “and.” Breathe in “two,” breathe out “and.” Continue this until you arrive at “ten” and then begin the whole process over again. You’ll find as you practice that you’re able to meditate for longer and longer periods. Just remember to start out slowly (maybe about four to five minutes, working up to 15 or 20 minutes). Also, remember to be gentle with yourself. There will be days that are more difficult than others, but with practice you’ll be able to let your thoughts slip away and enjoy the time that you’re just “being” instead of doing.
Coping when you’re feeling extra stress:
- Remember to breathe: If you find yourself in a tense situation, “take five”; breathe in for a count of five and out for a count of five and repeat until you feel more balanced and less reactive. You’ll be surprised at how well it works.
- Take a walk: This can be a great way to recharge or can be used when you’re feeling stressed. A walk around a block or two can bring you back to yourself. You may come back feeling good enough to talk to your brother-in-law again!
It’s hard to guarantee a holiday season free from stress, but feeling more balanced and energized just might be the keys to keeping your stress manageable.
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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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