Because of all the additions to your to-do list, which means additional stress, it’s easy to feel less-than-wonderful during this “most wonderful time of the year.” When you find yourself frazzled from the frenzy, you need to give yourself a break – even if it’s just a quick one. I’m betting that you know all the usual stress busters: take a walk, sneak in a snooze, practice deep breathing, spend time in nature, get some exercise, etc. Well, here are a few tips you might not have heard of yet. Some you can even do right on the spot – in the middle of a holiday gathering – without anyone knowing.
Roll your eyes up.
Seriously. Closing your eyes and looking up causes your brain to start producing alpha waves. Alpha waves are typically present in a relaxed state of awareness, like when you’re daydreaming. It’s the movement of the eyes that causes your brain to make alpha waves, so a quick glance at the ceiling could do wonders for your stress level. Just make sure you’re not rolling your eyes at anyone in particular!
Take a whiff of citrus.
Researchers studying depression have found that citrus fragrances boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress by upping your brain’s levels of norepinephrine, a mood-affecting hormone. You can get the real thing or use essential oils in a diffuser or burner.
Hold the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Doing this physically connects the two “master meridians” that control the others. Both master meridians begin in your perineum and run up the front and back of your body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, meridians are the channels through which your life energy, called “qi” or “chi,” flows. These meridians are the basis for acupuncture. Science is still debating the validity of acupuncture. However, I can tell you that acupuncture worked for me.
Squeeze the flesh between your thumb and forefinger.
The fleshy part of your hand between your index finger and thumb is called the “hoku spot” in traditional Chinese medicine. Applying firm pressure here for just 30 seconds can help reduce stress and tension in your body. So if you start to feel overwhelmed by holiday chaos, give your hand a squeeze and take a deep breath. I couldn’t find scientific support for this one. However, it is subject to the placebo effect. Like anything else, if you think it works, it does – even if just a little. Here’s a video explaining the technique.
Spice it up.
Eating spicy foods activates your brain’s central opioid system and has an analgesic effect. That painful burning comes from capsaicin. Capsaicin binds to pain receptors on nerves which send signals to your brain causing it to respond as if there’s something hot in your mouth. In response to the pain, your brain releases endorphins and dopamine. These chemicals create a euphoria similar to “runner’s high”. Eating almost anything causes your brain to release opioids. So, be careful. Don’t overdo it.
Get busy with someone or by yourself.
In addition to giving your immune system a boost, having sex can lower stress. Whether you’re with someone or going it solo, orgasms increase endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. They also raise oxytocin which promotes trust, relaxation, better mood, and sound sleep.
Take a technology break.
Constant electronic buzzes and notifications give your brain bursts of adrenaline, keeping it on high alert. Not only is this exhausting, but it also contributes to elevated stress levels. Turn your electronic gadgets off and really be present in your current environment with friends and family. Take the mindful stance of being an objective observer and you might even be able to see some humor in the holiday madness.
Tap it out.
EFT is a brain/body/emotions reprogramming technique where you tap gently on different parts of the body with your fingertips while you repeat a phrase out loud and pay attention to your emotions. It’s similar to acupuncture and acupressure in that it stimulates meridian points. Tapping is believed to increase the overall flow of chi by helping it to become unblocked at tapping locations. Again, there isn’t any hard science to back this up, but many swear by it.
Eat a mango.
You might already know that mangoes are good-for-you because they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But, I bet you didn’t know that mangoes contain a lot of the chemical tryptophan. Tryptophan is a required precursor of the hormone, serotonin. Among many things, serotonin can help stabilize and elevate your mood.