Stress during and after the Christmas and New Year holidays presents an exhausting array of physical and emotional demands after days or weeks of shopping, travelling, cooking, sleeplessness and partying, that, for many, can bring about lingering stress and anxiety.
The stress can take a toll on a person’s overall health and well-being and unfortunately can continue to snowball and worsen as the New Year goes on.
According to health experts, just like any other form of stress, holiday-related stress can inhibit the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and lead to pain, disease and early ageing.
A personal trainer and wellness coach, Mr Jonathan Jordan, told Consumer Affairs, a product research organisation based in the United States, that symptoms of holiday-related stress included fatigue, depression and physical effects such as accumulation of body fat and bone deterioration. Jordan said:
“Thanks to today’s fast-paced, technology-centric world, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, consumers are bombarded constantly with low and high levels of mental, physical, emotional and physiological stress.”
If the holidays leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed or you are coming down with a cold or flu, or perhaps the rich holiday foods cause you to gain weight, here are a few tips for shaking off the stress and anxiety.
Have good sex with your spouse
It is possible that during the holidays, you didn’t have enough time for intimate sessions with your spouse perhaps due to busy schedules, but after the holidays, don’t hesitate to bring your groove back.
Sex is great for stress relief. In fact, one study revealed that stress-related blood pressure is significantly lower in people who recently had sex and suggested that the love hormone, oxytocin, might be behind this phenomenon.
So, if you are in need of some well-deserved stress relief after the holidays, good sex is the answer.
According to experts, sex offers a lot of amazing health benefits, including boosting immunity, raising self-esteem, increased endorphins (natural painkillers) and raised oxytocin levels, which promotes sound sleep.
Quieting the mind and relaxing the body is the goal of meditation. Even as little as one minute of meditation can be beneficial, said Jordan, the expert at Consumer Affairs.
Experts at Mayo Clinic recommended spending 15 minutes alone, without distractions, saying,
“Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include: taking a walk at night and stargazing; listening to soothing music; getting a massage; or reading a book.”
On listening to soothing music, ensure you listen to your favourite songs and not just any song. Research from the University of Maryland showed that hearing music you love can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. Listening to music not only calms you down, but it is also good for blood flow through the heart.
Meanwhile, the time for meditation is not the time to put your phone beside you; it doesn’t even matter whether you turn it on vibration or silence mode.
During your meditation hour, Jordan advised putting aside all your devices, saying the blue light emitted from digital devices like iPhones, iPads and laptop could impair your fight or flight mechanisms.
Start eating healthily again
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen wrote on health.com that after you might have stacked up foods high in cholesterol during the holidays and have gained weight, now is the time to adjust your diet.
According to the National Health Service, NHS, in the United Kingdom, the key to a healthy diet is to eat the right amount of calories for how active you are so you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use. The NHS said on its website, nhs.uk.:
“If you eat or drink more than your body needs, you’ll put on weight because the energy you do not use is stored as fat. If you eat and drink too little, you’ll lose weight.
“You should also eat a wide range of foods to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.”
The service recommended that men should have around 2,500 calories a day while women should have around 2,000 calories a day.
The NHS also recommended, among others, lots of vegetables and fruits; eating more fish; cutting down on saturated fat and sugar; and eating less salt, no more than 6 grammes a day for adults while children younger than 11 should consume even less.
Sleep well and early
Health experts have always said a good night’s sleep is vital to one’s physical health and emotional well-being even as the benefits of good sleep can never be underestimated.
An author and good sleep advocate in the UK, Laura Barns, said the health benefits of good sleep included reduced stress, memory improvement, blood pressure reduction, weight control and reduced chances of diabetes. Barns wrote on dreams.co.uk.:
“If you’ve ever thought that sleep doesn’t really matter all that much, think again, because it actually matters a great deal.”
Pawlik-Kienlen added that it was not enough to sleep, it was also good to go to bed early. She stated:
“Sleep deprivation can impact our body’s de-stressing ability, memory compiling and hormone cycling functions. Try to get to bed early, no later than 10.00 pm. Even as little as 10 minutes of extra sleep per day can be a boon to your health.”
Experts at Mayo Clinic stated that the health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity were hard to ignore, stating that everyone benefits from exercise, regardless of age, sex or physical ability.
From sparking one’s sex life to boosting better sleep to controlling weight to combating health conditions and diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety, having a regular exercise has amazing health benefits.
Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, exercising the body can bring relief to the body and mind after a stressful holiday.
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommended at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
Examples (of exercise you can do post-holidays) include running, walking or swimming. The DHHS suggested:
“Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, and accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide health benefits. Strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
“Examples include lifting free weights, using weight machines or doing body-weight training. Spread your activities throughout the week.
“If you want to lose weight, meet specific fitness goals or get even more benefits, you may need to ramp up your moderate aerobic activity to 300 minutes or more a week.”
Go to the spa
Visiting a spa has an array of health benefits and it’s one of the places you might want to consider visiting to destress after the holidays. A wellness expert based in Lagos, Ms Chioma Alexander, said a visit to the spa could create time to wind down and relax thus having a clear mind and increased productivity after the session. Alexander added:
“Among others, having a spa session helps to sleep well, helps with anti-ageing, relieves aches and pains, improves blood flow and circulation and promotes radiant skin.”
A spa treatment will often involve a little application of essential oils designed to calm and soothe. But a 2012 study from the European Society of Cardiologists found that the effects of brief exposure to essential oils can do more for you than just calm your mental state.
If you’re given scents from essential oils for no more than an hour, the study found, your heart will actually benefit. The study took place in Taiwan and put 100 healthy young people in calming rooms in which essential oil (often bergamot) was being vaporised. At the end of an hour, the youth’s heart rates and blood pressure were measured and found to have reduced.
Focus on your New Year’s resolutions
The end of the holidays means that it’s time to be up and running again. It is time to think of the New Year and plan accordingly. Don’t let anyone deceive you that New Year’s resolutions don’t work anymore.
Ensure you make them and be committed to whatever promise you make to yourself in 2020. Whether it’s starting a new course or handiwork, or improving on old one – or being a better parent, New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be ambiguous.
Need help with coming up with New Year’s resolutions? A clinical psychologist and Director of the Johns Hopkins Mindfulness Programme at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, US, Dr Neda Gould, recommended starting small by breaking the goals into tinier steps over the course of the year.
“If weight loss is your goal, it doesn’t have to be drastic. Try to eat more vegetables during your first month and gradually cut back on sweets throughout the next,” Gould suggested.