The holiday season is upon us – a time that should be filled with joy and celebration. However, this time of year comes with its own set of unique stressors.
Some of these stressors include the pressure to make the season perfect, overextending ourselves financially or with commitments, losing touch with our healthy practices, and overindulging. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves this time of year and people often report the biggest source of stress can come from their own families. In addition , the prevalence of celebratory gatherings can lead to either being forced into uncomfortable social situations or being excluded and isolated. All of these can lead to feelings of worry, sadness, and frustration. It is normal to have these feelings but when they become overwhelming, they throw us out of balance and can lead to full blown anxiety and depression.
At the heart of traditional Chinese Medicine is the idea of balance. This is symbolized by the Tai Ji Tu - or the yin / yang symbol as it is commonly known. In particular, there needs to be a balance between the individual organ groups and the physiological, psychological, and emotional functions they are responsible for. Traditional Chinese Medicine provides us with various methods that help to restore the balance. These can allow us to deal with the stress in our lives and function in a healthier and happier state in order to be able to enjoy all the good things this time of year can offer us.
Working with an acupuncturist can help you maintain optimum health and provide tools that will assist in taking care of yourself, so that you are able to focus on what the season is truly about. Some of the modalities your acupuncturist may use are:
Acupuncture needles: needles are inserted into specific points on the body in order help reduce stress responses and reestablish hormonal balance
Herbal Formulas: Chinese Herbal Formulas help address the root cause of the issue by modulating our emotional responses and making it easier for us to respond to the stresses we may encounter.
Gua Sha and Cupping: Are adjunct therapies that can address some of the physiological side effects that stress exacerbates, such as headaches, muscle tension, digestive issues, and pain
There are also a number of things you can do on your own that will help support and protect you this holiday season.
Breathing - Taking a few moments to be conscious of your breath will be an integral practice to maintain a sense of calm in the chaos. Slowly inhale through the nose, feel your belly fill up, and slowly exhale through the mouth. Repeating this for 10 breaths will help improve the amount of oxygen you are taking in, which will calm your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and help to lower stress.
Hydrating - All of your organs need water to function properly. If you’re dehydrated, your body will not function optimally- which can lead to physical and emotional stress. The holidays, with plenty of parties and an increase in caffeine and alcohol intake, can lead to faster dehydration. Drink water – but hold the ice! Room temperature water is easier on your body to process.
Sleeping – Getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night is probably the most important thing you can do to maintain balance. Sleep is when we do most of our healing. Our body is renewing and regenerating while we are sleeping- a good night’s sleep contributes to a healthy immune system and balances our emotional state. While we are sleeping, blood supply to muscles increases and tissue growth and repair occurs
Eating - Diet In the colder temperatures of the winter months, we should focus on foods that are warming to the body. Try to avoid raw, cold foods and instead integrate warming, cooked vegetables and whole foods into your diet. This includes things like soups, stews, root vegetables, beans, garlic and ginger. Focus on foods to help keep the body’s core warm, while providing healthy nourishment. Moderating consumption can lead to less stress on your system and have you operating optimally.
Scheduling - The holidays can bring more parties and gatherings, festive and joyful opportunities, but it can be easy to overdo it. Because sleeping and eating schedules might be more erratic, try to mix in time for rest to allow yourself to recuperate. Get a nap in before those later nights!
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