it was seeing Halloween costumes displayed next to Christmas
ornaments. Or forgetting to thaw the Thanksgiving turkey. Or
hearing "Little Drummer Boy" on the radio for the
first set your holiday heart pounding, your hands sweating and
your fingers trembling, your stress level is, in all
likelihood, up. It may not level off for a while.
the bad news. The good? There are simple ways to bring it
down. When youíre finished, youíll still have chores and
obligations, but also a renewed spirit to deal with them.
putting down your to-do list and your smartphone, neither of
which is going anywhere.
your phone or email is sending us into a high anxiety
state," says Angela Wagner, owner of YogaSport studio in
for well-meaning people who arenít on your gift list ó but
they drop in bearing a cellophane-wrapped something for you.
We canít do anything about them, but we can offer one-word,
one-minute-or-more ways to establish peace on Earth ó your
Earth. Here goes:
through your nose to a count of four or five. Exhale slowly
through your nose to the same count.
we resist and fight and judge reality, thatís what causes
the stress, not the circumstances," says Brother ChiSing
(a.k.a. Norman Eng), director of Dallas Meditation Center.
"Breathing mindfully increases your ability to be aware,
to accept and then to make better creative choices in the
"opens your heart," adds assistant center director
Bobbie Perkins. When that happens, itís "a little
easier to deal with people, even family members you donít
like to be around all that much."
advises doing this ó not phoning a friend, not texting
another one ó when standing in line, for instance, with
armloads of wrapping paper or rib roast. "It relaxes your
whole nervous system. Youíre getting that extra oxygen,
getting rid of your distractions."
as gum can be, flavor isnít what helps relieve anxiety, says
Kevin P. Gosselin. Heís assistant dean for research and
evidence-based practice at the College of Nursing, Texas
a somatic process, the process of chewing gum to reduce the
physiological anxiety we experience," says Gosselin, who
has a doctor of philosophy degree in educational psychology.
"Chewing gum is a way we can reduce that anxiety. It
provides a tangible outlet ó biting down."
of caveats: Choosing sugar-free will also relieve the stress
of anticipating cavities as well as make your dentist happy.
And chew doesnít mean chomp sloppily.
has been used as therapy since Platoís time, but is a lot
more accessible nowadays. As for its calming nature, Gosselin
says there are two schools of thought.
first is selecting your own music. The second is choosing
music that meets certain criteria: 60 to 80 beats per minute;
no voices, only instruments; and no horns, percussion or
anything with "a more abrasive tambour," Gosselin
says. In other words, choose piano or string instruments.
my research, classical music is typically better at reducing
anxiety than self-directed," says Gosselin, whose studies
involved nursing students. "I tend to stick to classics
like Bach, Mozart, Haydn."
Gruber wrote "Silent Night," so that might be a good
choice. Whether to include "Little Drummer Boy" ó
thatís up to you.
actually work thatís been done that shows primarily if you
pet your own dog or cat your blood pressure will lower,"
says Bonnie Beaver, a professor of animal behavior in the
College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University.
"Itís more significant if itís your own. Otherwise,
thereís a tension: ĎIs this one going to bite me?í"
suggests that when youíre stroking an animal, thereís a
release of oxytocin, a calming hormone, "which then
physiologically helps relieve stress," she says. In
addition, the animals tend to have a corresponding lowering of
blood pressure while theyíre being petted.
have mostly been done on dogs, including one showing that dog
owners who had survived a heart attack were less likely than
non-owners to have a second heart attack. The calming
influence, though, has been verified with other species as
well, says Beaver.
me, I have great stress release with a horse and a dog and a
added benefit, after petting your pooch by the crackling
fireside, take him for a walk. Fresh air is calming; plus,
people are more likely to talk to you, so youíre getting
that social component. Do so only if your dog is good on a
leash. "If theyíre pulling you down the sidewalk,"
Beaver says, "thatís not good."
to live our lives a bit on the hunched side, says Wagner.
"Weíre hunched over our computer, driving cars, holding
the baby, reading your phone."
she recommends a couple of yoga poses. Though one takes a
little more bottom-scootching than the other, both can be done
between trips to the mall or when the in-laws are shouting
along with "A Christmas Story" while itís on TV in
the other room.
simpler "cat-cow," get on your hands and knees.
Inhale, dropping your belly, arching your back as you raise
your head. Exhale, curve your spine, tuck your belly, let your
youíre rounding it to cat, youíre exaggerating the
negative movement" of the hunch," she says.
"The general backbend of cow will reverse some of the
negative of rounding forward. Youíre releasing some of those
tight muscles in your chest, your pectoral muscles and
body is meant to be in strong alignment. The way we hold
ourselves is a huge part of the way we feel."
"legs on the wall" pose, lie on your back facing the
wall. Scoot your bottom as close to it as possible, then lift
your legs so theyíre flush against the wall. Pull your
shoulders down and, if you like, grasp your elbows above your
head and rest your arms on the floor.
relaxes the central nervous system," Wagner says.
"Youíre reversing your blood flow. Youíre doing it
passively. The wall is doing the work for you."
there for a few breaths, a few minutes, a few stanzas of
"Twelve Days of Christmas."
havenít found it to take the place of a nap," she says,
"but itís always written up as one of the most
are fine, but to make the most of your tub experience, be sure
youíre generous ó as in a cup or two ó with the Epsom
salt, or magnesium sulfate, has been touted as a stress
reliever because when the body is stressed, it loses
magnesium, which Epsom salt can replenish through the skin. Itís
also been touted on various websites (including
empathsolutions.com and Dr. Ozís Pinterest page) as
increasing energy levels.
course, you may need to do this before the kids are on holiday
break. Or just hand the older set a threaded needle and some
popcorn. By the time they tire of stringing the stuff, youíll
be out of the tub and refreshed.