What gift to I get for this person?
Do I need to get a gift for that person?
Which recipe should I prepare for tomorrow night’s party?
Will the entire family get along and bring a peaceful holiday dinner?
While the holiday season is a good time to visit with friends and family, help the less fortunate, and be grateful, December can also be a very stressful and chaotic month. How you perceive each stressful situation is under your control. Replacing negative thoughts with positive reflections is a powerful tool. To change your thought process you can use effective relaxation techniques: muscle-to-mind and mind-to-muscle.
Muscle-to-Mind Relaxation Techniques
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Lay on your back with a pillow underneath your knees (to prevent low back discomfort). Contract your muscles in each area for 5 seconds with 70% maximal effort. Avoid contracting your muscles at 100% to prevent overstraining. Begin the muscle contractions at your feet and work progressively up towards your head. After contracting one muscle group, relax for a few seconds before moving to the next region. You may choose to contract your muscles bilaterally (eg. right and left calf muscles at the same time) or unilaterally (eg. right calf muscle followed by left calf muscle).
Performing Progressive Muscle Relaxation will create kinesthetic awareness, which will show you how tightening and relaxing your muscles feel, releasing tension and ultimately teaching your body to relax.
Massage is performed by another person (ie. Licensed Massage Therapist) using his/her hands, fingers, elbows, and feet to systematically alleviate painful knots and trigger points in the muscles and connective tissue (eg. tendons and fascia). The licensed professional will change your body with pressure, tension, motion, and vibration, preformed manually or with mechanical devices. Research has found that massage therapy can relieve pain, reduce anxiety and depression, and temporarily decrease blood pressure and heart rate.
Mind-to-Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Yoga is a beneficial form of exercise to manage holiday stress, and it can be performed at the gym or the comfort and conveniency of your home. Regardless of the type of yoga practice, the ultimate goal is to achieve complete peacefulness of the mind and body. Hatha yoga is the most common type in Western countries, and promotes a calmer mind, improved flexibility, and increased muscular endurance. Optimal posture (“asana”) and movement patterns during a Hatha yoga session can reduce low back pain. Further, Hatha yoga incorporates deep breathing techniques, which reduce stress and lower blood pressure and resting heart rate.
Mediation will control your attention and increase your focus and concentration, resulting in emotional and physical benefits. Adding meditation to your daily routine will decrease heart rate, blood pressure, stress, anger, and muscular tension. Meditation is easy to learn, however this mental exercise must be practiced consistently to experience the benefits. To begin meditation, choose a location that is quiet, comfortable, and distraction-free (eg. no family, phones, or television). Deep breathing is encouraged.
Create soothing visual images and scenes (eg. sunny beach, beautiful meadow) during stressful times. Perform this exercise in a quiet, comfortable, and distraction-free location. Immerse yourself into the scene and imagine experiencing nature to its fullest: playing with the friendly animals, breathing in the fresh smells, and listening to the calm sounds. Practice visual imagery for 10 to 20 minutes to elicit mind and body relaxation and tackle your seemingly endless ‘to-do list.’
Sutton, B. (2013). Relaxation techniques for the holiday season. National Academy of Sports Medicine Blog. http://blog.nasm.org/12-days-of-fitness/fitness-tips/relaxation-techniques-holiday-season/ Accessed on 2014 December 13.