While we all picture the holidays and Christmastime to be happy times, they can also be quite stressful. So here are three of the simplest things you can do to help you relax at this time of year…and you might end up using them forever! My favorite is humming.

Stress busters

Whether it’s finding time to write some cards, wrap some presents, cook a meal for a crowd, prepare the house, or whatever, this time of year can get a little stressful for us all – or maybe that should be a little MORE stressful – as stress seems to feature too much in our everyday lives. 

Yes, it’s true that we can’t always eliminate stress, but we can find ways to deal with it quickly so that it doesn’t become a long term chronic stress. Here are my top three quick stress busters: humming, anti-stress herbal tea, and breathing. Give one or all of them a try! 

No. 1 Humming

I want to hear you humming this holiday season.  Go around the house or workplace humming your favorite Christmas tunes. Really get into it and enjoy it. Any time you feel yourself starting to get a bit stressed out – hum a tune. Maybe you are in the car stuck in traffic, maybe you are tense with a whole list of things to do, maybe you are wrapping presents. Whatever it is, just start humming a tune. 

It might sound a ridiculously simple thing to do – but it is effective. Humming actually stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the nervous system involved in relaxing. It does this via the vagal nerve. 

The vagal nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It goes from the brain, down the neck, around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart, and lungs. It is a major part of the parasympathetic nervous system. 

When we hum, the vibrations stimulate the vagal nerve near the vocal chords. The vagal nerve then sends messages to the brain to activate the parasympathetic system, which helps you to relax, be calm.

Hum that stress and tension away. 

And if a hum isn’t enough – sing instead. Singing does the same thing. I want to hear you……..Maybe start your day singing in the shower…..

I always love it when I wake up in the morning and hear my hubby singing or humming a tune (tune not always identifiable, but that’s OK!!), accompanied by Harold, my pet parrot. It is the best way to start the day. So your singing and humming might do more than just relax you – it might help those around you too – or they might join in! 

No.2 Drink some anti-stress tea

For someone who can’t stand regular tea, I sure do value herbal teas. There are some great anti-stress teas in the stores that are worth a try. Take a look next time you go to the supermarket. They might just help you through these next few weeks…and beyond.  

They have great names like:

  • stress-ease
  • stress-relief
  • be-well
  • tension tamer
  • stress balance
  • calm tea
  • calm me
  • zen tea
  • tranquilyTea
  • relaxed mind
  • cup of calm

How can you resist! Look at the ingredients list for herbs that support your adrenal gland – the gland that produces cortisol, our stress hormone. Such herbs include: licorice, chamomile, ashwaganda, lavender, kava,…. Most of the teas have a variety of herbs included. 

Take five minutes and enjoy a warm relaxing drink, any time of the day. 

No 3. Breathe

Yes, I know we all breathe – but when we are stressed, we tend to have shallow breaths and not belly breaths.  

If you are getting stressed out, take time to do some belly breaths. If you don’t know how to do this, here’s how: put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Breathe in and your hand on your belly should raise up as your belly expands. As you breathe out, the hand on your belly should then lower again. The hand on your chest should not really move at all.  We want to focus on deep breaths, not shallow/chest breaths.

Practice slowly a few times until you get into the rhythm. Once you’ve got it figured out, you won’t need to use your hands.

Once you are belly breathing, the next goal is to try and control the time you take to breathe in and out. Start by breathing in for 3 counts, out for 3 counts.

Then breathe in for 3 counts and out for 4 counts.

Then keep lengthening the exhalation. The goal is to reach 3 counts for inhaling and 6 counts for exhaling. Lengthening our exhale to double the length of the inhale has a profound effect on our relaxation response.  

This is such a quick and easy thing to do – in any situation – and can be very calming. Use it as often as you can. 

 

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, humming Christmas, Hanukkah, or holidays. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. xxx

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