Integrative Medicine: De-stress during the holidays

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6D

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's tends to be one of the most stressful times of the year. Instead of waiting until the first of the year to de-stress, why not use a few quick and easy tools now to keep you grounded during the holidays? Here are some simple ways to keep your mind-body-spirit in balance this holiday season:

• Schedule "me time": Carve out time for your health. Make sure that at least half an hour a day is devoted to your physical health, and half an hour for your mental health. For example, how about this smartphone calendar listing: Monday 5:30-6 p.m.: walk around the block; Monday 9-9:30 p.m.: Read a book.

• Stretch: Start out each day with a stretch, and for those of you who know yoga, perform the surya namaskar. This just takes 2 minutes, and it helps relax and ground you for the rest of the day.

• Soak: Take a daily hot bath or soak in a sauna instead of a shower. You will be surprised at how relaxed your muscles and joints feel.

• Use a natural energy boost: The herbs panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, yerba mate and ashwagandha all can help give your energy a kick-start.

• Ban the sugars: Processed sugars are energy drains, as they lead to highs and then lows of blood sugar, wreaking havoc on your energy levels. Limit your sweets to 100 calories a day of any processed sugar. Munch on lean proteins or fruit instead if you get a sugar craving.

• Find time: Turn off the computer, TV, smartphone and email for one hour every evening. Let your brain rest and recuperate for this one hour a day from the holiday stress.

• Say no: Say a gracious "No, thank you" to any and all social events that you do not want to attend. There is enough to do in the holiday season; wasting one whole evening increases your stress level when you are overcommitted.

• Simplify: Do you really need to buy all those presents? What is the bare minimum you are happy with, and how much can you afford? Create a list and stick to it – avoid impulse shopping. Do not spend what you don't have. Whereas money may not buy happiness, being in debt certainly increases stress levels and increases depression.

• Give to someone less fortunate: The act of giving has been shown to increase personal happiness. How about volunteering in a food kitchen, sponsoring a family for the holidays or donating blankets to a local shelter?

• Schedule sleep time: Make sure your day allows for 7 1/2 hours of sleep nightly. This will give you a chance to refuel every night. Sleep deprivation increases stress cortisol levels and can lead to irritability, decreased cognition and weight gain.

We wish you an incredible holiday season, full of peace and balance.

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