WHY THE SHOULD-BE-HAPPY HOLIDAYS STRESS US OUT
And How To Deal With It Naturally
Even though it feels like it was just March yesterday, the holidays are here. Sure that usually means fun Friendsgivings and a rocking NYE party (though who knows that that means this year), but it also means midnight amazon cart filling and houseguests up in your space. And these days with COVID, many are avoiding seeing too many people which can mean guilt, stress and walking the tightrope of safety and family interactions or feeling that we are not really celebrating.
For many of us, it’s both equal parts fun and chaos, and that up and down is stressful. Here’s how to chill out naturally (without too many eggnogs) this holiday season and beyond.
Stress: What It Is And Why You Feel It
Eastern Medicine and Stress
In TCM, different organs are associated with different emotions. The Liver, which stores blood and regulates the flow of Qi, is thought to be connected to stress. As a result, you might feel aches or pains under your right ribs, where your liver is, if you’re stressed out.
In TCM, a healthy person has a well-balanced flow of Qi (the life force made up of the opposing forces of yin and yan) throughout their mind and body. You can maintain this balance by eating well, staying active, and managing your emotional life.
If your Qi becomes unbalanced, your mind and body may suffer. Stress can block up your Liver, the organ associated with excessive emotions and anger. And since your liver is also the organ that regulates your Qi, too much stress can slow down the flow of Qi. Treatments like acupuncture can help to alleviate stress and rejuvenate the flow of Qi, but there are also herbs and supplements you can take.
Western Medicine and Stress
In Western medicine, stress is mostly understood as a chemical reaction that happens in your body during certain situations. When you’re put in a stressful situation, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline into your bloodstream.
This activates your “fight or flight” reaction. But in most modern stressful situations, throwing punches or running away won’t solve your problems. So those chemicals aren’t used, and over time they accumulate in your body. As a result, you might notice unpleasant symptoms like irritability, tense muscles, headaches, shortness of breath, and the inability to concentrate.
Ayurvedic Medicine and Stress
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian health practice, focuses on maintaining your bodily balance. Stress disturbs our natural balance, and we have to correct that balance to feel better. In the Ayurvedic tradition, we contain 5 natural elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements combine in our bodies to form 3 different energies or doshas. These are Vata dosha (space and air), Pitta dosha (fire and water), and Kapha dosha (water and earth). We all have all of these, but usually one is stronger than the others.
But stress increases vata. And while vata isn’t necessarily bad in itself, having too much of any doshas can upset our mental and physical health. So when it comes to managing stress in the Ayurvedic tradition, you can use lifestyle changes and your diet to decrease your vata levels.
How To Reduce Stress Naturally
Break Some Eggs
No, we’re not making omelettes. We’re releasing tensions and anger in a safe and somewhat silly way.
You see, in TCM, the liver is strongly connected to the emotion of anger. So when stress has your QI blocked up and your liver stagnated, getting rid of this excess anger can help balance things out.
One easy, cheap, and relatively harmless way to get out some of that pent up aggression? Smashing eggs! Throw them at trees or crush them in the shower. Then when you’re done, just wash it all down the drain.
Sure, it might sound weird and be a bit silly, but it’s all about loosening up and expressing yourself.
Hit The Basketball Court
If smashing eggs doesn’t quite do it for you, then lace up your sneakers and hit the basketball court. Or tennis court, or baseball diamond, or soccer field. Whatever your sport, just get out there and play.
In TCM, sports are thought to help unblock your Qi and free your liver from all this extra stress and tension. It doesn’t matter what you play, as long as you get your heart pumping and get some oxygen flowing. Playing sports or doing other physical activity like running or boxing will release the extra energy that’s getting turned into stress.
Western medicine also prescribes exercise for stress because it decreases the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins, and helps you get a good night’s rest. So the next time you’re getting stressed out about the holidays, throw on your sneakers and hit the pavement.
Keep It Consistent
We tend to get stressed out when things change often or unexpectedly. Humans are creatures of habit, so disruptions in our patterns can stress us out. That’s why Ayurvedic tradition, traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine all agree that consistency is key for managing stress.
In Ayurveda, stress is usually caused by too much vata. Vata is a cold, light, and erratic energy. So to counterbalance that, you need warmth and stability. Make sure to have some daily routines to ground you throughout your day. Try taking the first 30 minutes of your day to meditate and journal. Or you could set aside 15 minutes before lunch to do some yoga.
And don’t forget to keep regular meal times and go to bed at the same time every night. Regularity will make it easier to sleep and help you destress. In TCM, staying up late and east at all hours of the day are sure ways to stagnate your liver and unbalance your Qi. This creates fire in your liver that travels up to your head, making it hard to sleep or relax.
So whether you’re trying to balance your vata, unstagnate your liver, or catch some Zs, make sure to have some routines in your life.
Have a Laugh
Laughter is the best medicine, right? It may sound corny, but it’s true!
That’s because laughter helps lower cortisol levels and releases endorphins, just like exercise does. It also increases the oxygen in your blood because you have to breathe deeper. Plus it boosts circulation which can help your muscles release all that pent up tension.
And that’s just in the short term! In the long term, regular laughter can improve your immune system, relieve your pain, and make you happier. So the next time you’re feeling stressed but don’t want to hit the gym, hit the comedy section of Netflix instead.
Destressing during the holidays can be challenging, but it’s key to both your short-term happiness and your long-term health. So when you feel tension levels rising, make sure to try one of these natural tips and see how it works for you.