Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Latest Column..yay!

Below is my latest contribution to the BI Times. Let this be a reminder to slow down and enjoy. We are taking a break from the dieting for the next 2 weeks, although all the experiments have lead to definite long term changes. Less dairy and sugar overall feels so much better.

Healthy Times

“It’s the holidays” tends to be the warranted response to whatever life dishes up for us this time year. What I hear us saying is, “this time of year is stressful and there is nothing we can do about it.” There are four major types of stress that effect our wellbeing: mental, emotional, physical and chemical; and the holiday season seems to amount to a perfect storm of these stresses. The holidays can be a stressful time for many people due to the intensified focus on family, work and money.

We have lists to tend to and bills to pay. This time of year demands a lot of us, and there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Mental stress takes a serious toll on the body; it can disturb our digestion, our sleep patterns as well as raise our blood pressure or cause muscle pains. Mental stress can be caused by our perception of a situation just as much as the situation itself. Something that's stressful to you, may not faze someone else, they may even enjoy it. For example, driving to the ferry may make you anxious and tense because you worry that you will miss it; others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they allow more than enough time and enjoy listening to music while they drive. Taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, and your schedule will improve the way you feel about a potential mental stressor. Take 5 minutes a few times a day to sit quietly and breath, get organized, or add 30-60 minutes to the estimated time it may take you to finish something on your list.

Another difficult type of stress to cope with and manage during the holidays is emotional stress. Holidays can conjure emotions from the past and present that lead to anxiety, depression, or sadness. Be careful not to manage emotional stress by engaging in unhealthy behaviors like overeating, drinking and smoking. These will only perpetuate the stresses. Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, so it helps to start by replacing one behavior at a time, taking baby steps. Next, identify your holiday stressors; what holiday events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Only engage in holiday activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. It is important to be sure to take care of yourself, get plenty of rest and ask for support from friends and family when you need it.

Chemical and physical stress come hand and hand during the holiday season. Eat, drink, and be merry can lead to a lot of stress on the body if we are eating and drinking ourselves to merriment for two months straight. Giving the gift of designated driver to a friend for a night of holiday parties can give you a break in return. When eating at holiday gatherings have a heaping tablespoon of everything you would like to try, this way you get to taste everything, you aren’t restricting yourself or over doing it. At dinner fill half your plate with vegetables before helping yourself to the rest of the dishes. This will ensure that you fill up on the healthier options first.

Finally, most of the stress that we feel at the holidays comes from our expectations of what a “perfect” holiday season looks like. The best remedy for this is learning how to laugh at ourselves. Understanding that there is no such thing as perfection, letting humility win out, and knowing that with every gaff comes a great story for the future. The imperfections are what memories are made of.