After our plates are cleared of the Thanksgiving gorge-fest, it’s off to the races for many of us in a flurry of festive holiday cheer that can fast go bust in a fiery burn-out. Schedule breaks from the merry-making treadmill and consider these stress-relieving techniques.
Found in health-foods stores, this mint-family herb calms and relaxes, says Brooklyn-based homeopath and registered herbalist Sara Chana. A small seven-day study reported by the University of Maryland Medical Center found those taking two doses of standardized lemon balm extract daily (300 mg and 600 mg) experienced enhanced mood, alertness and calm compared to a placebo group. “Lemon balm eases the central nervous system without sedating,” says Chana, “and is especially effective at soothing stomach-area tension.” Because herbs can taste bitter and be ineffective in capsule form, Chana recommends lemon-balm tincture or tea. Dosage depends on age and weight and should be determined by a healthcare practitioner. Tea amounts suggested by UMM range from 1.5 to 4.5 grams (one-fourth to one teaspoonful) of dried lemon-balm herb steeped in hot water up to four times, or up to 60 tincture drops, daily. Also used in aromatherapy, look for lemon-balm candles, lotions, and oils. Herbal remedies may have side effects or interact with medications. Always consult your doctor before taking.
Learn the Life Index Finger reflex, suggests LA-based Murray Grossan, MD, an ear, nose and throat specialist who wrote Stressed?Anxiety? Your Cure Is In The Mirror. Take three measured breaths, counting four beats inhaling, and six beats exhaling. “After the last breath, drop your index finger. Let this signal your body to fully relax,” says Dr. Grossan. Practice three times daily to build a reflex to store in your stress-fighting arsenal. In other words, train yourself to stress-prep, and, by dropping your finger, trigger this relaxation response. Also, look in mirror, he says, “watching your face, jaw and shoulders melt to relaxation.”
Practicing anything just six seconds can start brain rewiring, says Washington, DC-based psychologist Marsha Lucas, PhD, author of the upcoming Rewire Your Brain for Love. Learn her “pause practice” in downtime then draw on it to battle anxiety. “Form a habit of pausing so it becomes a brain and body response to stress.” Practice by pausing six seconds before eating or responding to emails or tweets. “Six seconds allows you time to notice emotional urges or waves,” says Dr. Lucas. “Being mindful means making choices instead of reacting to feelings, thoughts, or urges.”
What to You is most stressful about the holidays?