It’s no secret that sometimes the most joyous occasions can also bring about a flurry of stress. During the holidays, the pressure to meet expectations, both personal and societal, can leave us feeling overwhelmed and depleted. Meanwhile, changes in daylight and weather can have a significant physical effect on our well-being.
One of the best things you can do to protect your health in the midst of this whirlwind is actually quite simple: prioritize your self-care.
Not only will you navigate the hustle and bustle of the season better, but you’ll start the New Year on a healthier foot, making your current health goals even more achievable.
That said, taking time for self-care is often easier said than done. In this blog, we’ll dive into 7 simple self-care practices you can easily work into your daily or weekly schedule without adding more stress to this busy season.
Unwrapping Our Holiday Stress
The first step to enjoying a stress-free holiday season is to simply acknowledge that this time of year, for all its merriment, can also be a source of stress. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, you’re not alone. One study showed that 88% of Americans feel stressed during the holidays – and for good reason.
There’s pressure to spend extra money, find perfect gifts, be a perfect host or guest, navigate family dynamics, and juggle work and social commitments. This creates a cocktail of stress that leaves even the most spirited individuals feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Beyond making you feel like a Grinch, stress during the holidays can have tangible effects on your physical health. Research shows that heightened stress levels can compromise our immune system, making us more susceptible to seasonal illnesses. Moreover, the impact of stress on mental health is well-documented, with increased anxiety and depression rates during the holiday season.
In our office, Dr. Ko treats stress-related issues like insomnia, poor or increased appetite, headaches, indigestion, muscle pain, mood swings, depression, and panic disorder – all of which make your body imbalanced. “Stress is the root of all disease,” as he explains.
However, by acknowledging these stressors, we can better equip ourselves to address them head-on and prioritize our well-being.
The Dark Side of the Season: Seasonal Affective Disorder
Beyond holiday stressors, there’s another winter woe to manage: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that occurs seasonally, typically during the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter.
The reduced exposure to natural sunlight during winter can disrupt your circadian rhythms and drop your serotonin levels. As a result, you may feel more lethargic, sad, or stressed. For those already dealing with stress during the holidays, SAD can intensify both the emotional and physical toll of this season.
If you find yourself experiencing symptoms such as persistent sadness, low energy, or changes in sleep patterns, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional.
You don’t have to endure issues like SAD, chronic stress, and depression – these feelings are simply messages from your body that you are out of balance. At 120 Acupuncture Clinic, we’re here to help you restore your body’s natural balance so you can feel like your best self, no matter the season.
7 Self-Care Tips for a Happier Holiday Season
In the midst of the holiday rush, remember this: self-care is your biggest ally. Let’s explore 8 tried-and-true ways to practice self-care and reduce your stress.
1. Take deep breaths.
In the winter rush, it’s easy to forget the simple power of a deep breath. Deep breathing is a quick and effective way to signal to your body that it’s time to relax. One of the best things about deep breathing is you can do it anywhere, and it only takes a few moments to work.
Try the 4-7-8 technique: inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, then exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this cycle several times, until you feel calm and grounded in the moment.
2. Catch your Zzz’s.
Quality sleep is the cornerstone of overall well-being. And during the holiday season, it becomes even more crucial. Create a sleep-friendly environment by working with your circadian rhythm. Dim the lights before bedtime, keep electronic devices out of the bedroom, and stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Consider winding down with a calming routine, such as reading a book or practicing gentle stretches, to signal to your body that it’s time to rest.
3. Make time for mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing any kind of stress. Mindfulness is also simple to learn and can be done anywhere, from your kitchen table to your car to the checkout line.
Here’s an easy way to start: Take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath, allowing thoughts to come and go without judgment. Try to name one thing you can see, one thing you can hear, one thing you can smell, one thing you can feel, and one thing you can taste in that moment.
4. Stay active.
You may know that exercise is a natural stress-buster. But when you’re bogged down by holiday to-dos, exercise is often the thing that people skip. The truth is that exercise should be a top priority because a daily dose of movement will keep you fit, healthy, and focused on your day’s tasks. That’s because physical activity releases feel-good endorphins and helps to release built-up tension, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalized.
“I would like to recommend walking even with family or alone for about 30 to 40 minutes every day,” Dr. Ko says. “It is important to walk every day continually without missing a day.” So, try to spend at least 20 minutes each day taking a brisk walk, dancing to your favorite playlist, or doing whatever workout you enjoy!
5. Indulge with moderation.
The holidays are often full of decadent treats and indulgences. You should embrace and enjoy this special time of year and your favorite festive foods. But, these foods are often full of unhealthy fats, processed ingredients, refined sugar, and high salt levels that can wreak havoc on your health. Plus, these ingredients are known to increase cortisol and stress.
The goal is to indulge mindfully. First, fill up with a balance of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Then, save a smaller space on your plate to enjoy your favorite holiday treats.
6. Embrace the light.
Are your days feeling a bit darker? Exposure to a bright light that mimics natural sunlight can help regulate your circadian rhythm and alleviate symptoms of SAD or just the winter blues.
Maximize your exposure to natural daylight by spending time outdoors during daylight hours when possible. Whether it’s a brisk walk in the park or simply sitting by a sunny window, soaking up natural light can positively impact your mood and energy levels. Or, consider using a light box at your desk or wake-up light to simulate natural sunlight.
7. Schedule regular acupuncture sessions.
Acupuncture treatments are a relaxing and effective way to keep stress levels low. Along with offering some peace and quiet during the hectic holidays, acupuncture powerfully reduces cortisol levels, quiets the mind, and builds resilience.
According to Dr. Ko, “The main principle of acupuncture is moderation. Moderation is balance. When your balance is broken, your body hurts and stress occurs. If our body is in balance, there is no stress or illness. For example, you can think of it as maintaining balance so that a seesaw does not tilt to one side. The most important thing is to maintain your body’s balance. The only thing that can treat this balance is Oriental medical treatment.”
So, how often should you get acupuncture to keep stress at bay? As Dr. Ko explains, “The treatment period varies depending on the severity, but we recommend 2 to 3 times per week for 4 to 5 months. Treatment involves a combination of acupuncture treatment and herbal medicine.”
Acupuncture: The Self-Care Secret to a Stress-Free Holiday Season
At its core, acupuncture is founded on the principle of restoring balance within the body’s energy pathways, known as meridians. Through the gentle insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body, acupuncture stimulates the flow of energy, or qi, promoting a harmonious balance.
But how does acupuncture specifically tackle stress? While you are relaxing on the table, your body enjoys a powerful tune-up:
Acupuncture gives an endorphin boost.
Acupuncture triggers the release of endorphins, our body’s natural feel-good chemicals, acting as natural painkillers.
Acupuncture reduces stress.
The released endorphins play a crucial role in reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and fostering an overall sense of well-being.
Acupuncture calms the mind.
Acupuncture goes beyond physical effects, embracing a holistic therapy that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of stress.
Acupuncture regulates the nervous system.
Acupuncture helps regulate the nervous system, contributing to a state of relaxation and mitigating the body’s “fight or flight” response.
Heal Through the Holidays with Acupuncture
The holidays don’t have to be a stressful experience. Use acupuncture and other self-care practices to enjoy a wholesome, healing, and happy holiday season.
Struggling to find joy? Dr. Ko and the team at 120 Acupuncture Clinic in Studio City, Los Angeles are here to help you manage your stress and restore your energy for a vibrant year ahead. Book your appointment today, or call us at 1-818-980-7979 to get started.