Managing Holiday Stress

holidaystress.Last night Mark and I enjoyed a class taught by Michelle Thornell at the University of Utah Sugarhouse Health Center. Michelle gave us strategies to keep us from feeling exhausted, out of balance and susceptible to winter colds and flu. She provided nine tips to increase our enjoyment during this special time of year, which I thought were worth sharing in summary with you.

  • Simplify and commit to less. Choose to participate only in those holiday activities that hold meaning and joy for you and your loved ones.
  • Do one thing at a time. Give yourself the joy of focused attention.
  • Communicate consciously. Before you speak, think. Ask yourself, is what I’m about to say true, helpful, important, necessary and kind.
  • Maintain a restful sleep routine. You’ll feel better and be able to accomplish more as you cultivate a sleep routine. When you find yourself pushing too hard, or overdoing any activity, stop and rest.
  • Besides sleep, the best rest is the deep relaxation provided by meditation.
  • Eat warm, soothing foods. When the weather is cold, limit your intake of dry and raw items such as nuts, chips, and uncooked vegetables, which all tend to aggravate the body’s nervous system and digestion.
  • Don’t skip meals while holiday shopping. Skipping meals aggravates the body and mind, so stick with regular mealtimes.
  • Exhale your stress. In stressful situations we have an unconscious tendency to breathe shallowly, which only increases anxiety in our mind and body. Diaphragmatic breathing utilizes deep relaxing breaths to release stress and toxins from the body.
  • Nurture your senses with aromatherapy and essentials oils. In your home or office, use soothing scents such as orange, lavender, sandalwood, vanilla, orange, basil, or clove.

“Stress and other impurities hamper the free flow of energy and information through your physiology, whereas meditation helps remove them by releasing stress and eliminating toxins from your body. Rest is nature’s way of healing and rebalancing your body. Research has shown that the rest associated with meditation has been found to be much deeper than the rest gained in sleep.”

Michelle gave us eleven meditation exercises and taught us diaphragmatic breathing. We practice by placing one hand on our belly and the other on our chest making sure that our hand on our belly was the one moving.

“Diaphragmatic breathing is the act of breathing done by expanding one’s belly and thereby allowing the diaphragm to move down, creating more room for the lungs to expand. Practice this several times each day and you will then have it available in a stressful situation. This simple technique can slow and even stop the fight–or-flight response.” Reference:  http://www.ChopraTeachers.com/ZenSoldier.

Michelle is a U.S. Amy Major, meditation instructor and stroke survivor. She teaches a free weekly class every Wednesday at 3pm through the Intermountain Healthcare, Cottonwood Medical Clinic, Main level 1. To learn more about Michelle visit, http://meditatewithmichelle.com/

This timely information is a great reminder of how to destress and enjoy the holiday season.

Five Ways to Increase Well-being

Mind Body SoulDr. Kimberly Sieber is a Clinical Psychologist Specialist in Salt Lake City, Utah and we were honored to have her speak to our caregivers group on August 17, 2017. Having more than twenty years of experience in clinical psychology, she is an expert in helping people gain a better understanding of their own minds and well-being.

When we pay attention to our mind, we realize it never sits still. It’s all over the place. We spend a lot of time thinking about the past and why this or that happened and wishing we’d done things differently. This can lead to depression.

We also spend a lot of time planning and worrying about the future. This often leads to anxiety or panic. I appreciated the methods Dr. Sieber shared with us for improved physical and emotional well-being. I’ve felt progress in my own life the past few weeks since I started practicing her five suggested ways, which are:

1. Mindfulness and Meditation

Techniques Dr. Sieber listed:

girl practicing meditation yoga while sitting on mat clipart

  • Notice your senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching)
  • Take a body scan of your physical sensations—tension, pain, etc
  • What are your thoughts and/or emotions
  • Adopt a non-judgmental attitude that the emotion isn’t good or bad, just “is”
  • Accept your current experience
  • Don’t rehash the past (depression), or rehearse the future (anxiety)

Two ways to practice this:

  • Formal – breathing, body scan, imagery
  • Informal – showering, brushing teeth, eating, walking, nature

As we practice meditation, we need to accept that our mind wanders and bring it back to the thought at hand. Each day will be different and some days will be easier than others, but over time our mind will wander less and the more we do it the easier it gets. Gaining the ability to spend more time in the present will tame and control our brains.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” When we pay attention to the present, we are in the moment.

There’s more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment.

Dr. Sieber’s list of benefits:

Mind Full

  • Helps release depression and anxiety
  • Reduces stress and pain
  • Improves our concentration
  • Boosts creativity
  • Gives us more energy
  • Reduces stress (cortisol)
  • Reduces rumination
  • Reduces emotional reactivity (changes in brain)
  • Improves concentration and memory
  • Improves relationships
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves overall physical health (heart disease, blood pressure, pain)

2) Exercise

 Dr. Sieber’s list of benefits:

Exercises1

  • Releases brain chemicals like neurotransmitters and endorphins
  • Strengthens immune system, reducing inflammation
  • Increases body temperature which can have a calming effect
  • Reduces stress
  • Increases energy
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves self-confidence/self-esteem
  • Distraction from worries and problems

3) Nutrition

Necessary for good health and growth, Dr. Sieber shared these ideas:

Nutrition2

  • Avoid processed foods
  • Fish, meat, eggs, beans, complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
  • Vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, folic acid, vitamin D, zinc, iron)
  • Probiotics – yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut

 

4) Healthy Thinking

How or what we think directly affects our emotions and behaviors. To improve our thoughts, Dr. Sieber listed and discussed a few ideas:

  • Identify the situation that elicited thoughts, emotions, and behaviors
  • Recognize automatic, negative patterns of thought
  • Evaluate the validity of negative thoughts
  • Explore other ways of interpreting situations
  • Avoid negative self-statements
  • Behavioral activation (just do it)

5) Gratitude

To show appreciation and return kindness to others also contributes to our well-being. Dr. Sieber’s list of benefits are:

Gratitude tree

  • Increases positive thoughts and emotions
  • Improves physical health (heart, blood pressure, immune system)
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves relationships
  • Increases self-esteem

Ways to expand our gratitude:

  • Gratitude journal
  • Write a thank you note or mentally thank someone
  • Meditate about what you are grateful for

No Giant Step

Thank you, Dr. Sieber, for this timely presentation on physical and emotional well-being. I enjoyed learning how to turn my thoughts and actions around by consciously seeking peace of mind.

Reference: Bullet points and images came from Dr. Kimberly Sieber’s slide presentation.