Mindfulness is the practice of quieting one’s mind to gain clarity and be completely aware of you, your body and your surroundings. During the holidays, stress takes over and mindfulness goes out the window. Stress has a profound negative effect on our bodies. Often times we don’t even realize that we are having a stress response, we just chalk it up to holiday hustle and bustle. But there is so much pressure to make the holidays perfect that we often miss important signals our body gives us to relax.
Brain: Stress triggers cortisol. High levels of cortisol can trigger long term changes in the brain structure and function leading to possible memory loss and diminished learning.
Lungs and Heart: Stress makes you breathe harder to prepare for fight or flight. If you suffer from asthma or emphysema, this can strain your cardiovascular system and make it difficult to breathe.
Endocrine System: Under stress, the hypothalamus signals the automatic nervous system and pituitary gland to produce stress hormones; when hormones are released the liver produces glucose to provide energy for fight or flight. Most of the time we can reabsorb the glucose but over time high levels can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Gut: Those butterflies in your stomach are your body’s response to stress hormones. Chronic stress can lead to heartburn, acid reflux, ulcers, and bowel irregularity.
Skin: Acne, Eczema, psoriasis, rosacea all have foundations in stress. Cortisol increases skin oil production while stress can trigger an autoimmune reaction.
Hair: Stress can actually make your hair fall out, but don’t worry stress-related hair loss is not permanent.
Muscles: Under stress your muscles reflexively tighten. Chronic stress means your muscles are constantly tight which can lead to soreness, especially in the upper back, shoulders and neck that can lead to tension headaches.
Heart: Under extreme stress, it can actually feel like your heart is going to jump out of your chest. Chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart attack, hypertension, and stroke.
Here are 6 ways to fight stress fast and get you back to being mindful and enjoying the holidays.
- Listen to a funny joke: Laughter is shown to reduce the stress response, relax muscles, increase oxygen intake and boost brain endorphins.
- Find some Greenery: A study from Stanford University found those who walk outside in natural spaces had lower levels of rumination or feelings of sadness and stress.
- Get Sweaty: Any exercise will reduce stress and increase endorphin levels to boost your mood.
- Partner Up: Physical intimacy and stress reduction go hand in hand.
- Rub your dog’s belly: Petting your furry friends can lower your blood pressure and increase levels of “feel-good” hormones. Watching fish in an aquarium can have the same effect.
- Play your favorite beats: Music helps promote healing and improve emotional well-being. A meta-analysis found music improves the immune system and reduces stress. It was even more effective than prescribed medication and reducing anxiety.
In short, take a moment to PAUSE during the holiday season and listen to what your body is signaling. There is much we can do to eliminate the effects of stress tomorrow when we spend more time being mindful today. Happy Healthy Holidays from the Green Team.