2015 is here. Your resolutions are made… and in some cases already forgotten. The Christmas decorations have been packed away… or in some cases put on the to-do list for next weekend. The last of the casseroles and cookies have been made, delivered, eaten, or frozen. Now we are back to our regular routine. When most of us emerge from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we take a look around as the dust settles and wonder why our holiday is just a blur, where that time off disappeared to, and why you don’t feel more relaxed.
Studies have shown that our stress levels increase steadily from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Between the activities for family, work, school, children, and friends, our December calendars are packed full, leaving little time for us to stop and enjoy the season. Thus, when we return to work and routine, we are more stressed than before. (It doesn’t help that work usually piles up when you aren’t looking – whether it’s the paperwork you left at your desk or the laundry you left in the hamper.)
And when we are stressed, we tend to vent (often to those closest to us or sometimes to the person who happens to be standing next to us), procrastinate on our responsibilities, deliberate over the smallest details and become ineffective, and lose sleep. After the holidays, these can be even more detrimental. Most of us have returned to work and regular routine. Procrastinating or losing sleep will put us even further behind, thus adding to our stress level. You start to see how this cycle works.
Here are some simple ways to de-stress after the holidays – or really after any stressful situation.
An old tradition is to put fruit in your Christmas stocking. My mother-in-law insists on the fruit being oranges. Studies show that the smell of citrus can help reduce stress more effectively than aromatherapy. Citrus of all types can also curb anxiety and help with digestion and nausea. It turns out that Christmas stocking tradition has much added value.
Experts are recommending karaoke in 2015. Seriously. Studies show that group singing, whether karaoke or the church choir, lowers your blood pressure and releases endorphins and oxytocin, the feel-good hormones associated with feelings of pleasure and shown to alleviate anxiety and stress.
Curling up with a good book for at least 6 minutes can lower your blood pressure more than an hour massage. There are soothing properties in both to the tactile experience and the activity of reading. That means holding a real book, not your Kindle, and turning the pages. That means getting lost in the story or narrative of a book, not a blog. This may seem foreign to a few of you but it is worth 6 minutes of your time to try it.
Scientists predict that by year’s end, the average person will spend about 16 hours a day consuming media, including TV, social media and phone time? Think about that –16 hours a day is more than the hours the sun is up. Researchers have found that smartphones actually increase stress and that the more people used Facebook, the more their happiness declined. Lowering stress might be as easy as clicking a button – the off button.
Now that the holidays are over, it is time to de-stress and get back into our routine. But wouldn’t it be nice if our routine included built-in and thoughtful ways for us to keep the stress from coming back. Whether it’s a daily dose of citrus, a weekly trip to karaoke, a technology-free weekend, or a book-of-the-month club, look for ways to incorporate de-stressing activities into your life in 2015.
Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.