Monday Medical: 3 ways to de-stress the holidays

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Stress clutters up the holiday season like too many parties in a row. With all the extra demands on our time, including the most delightful celebrations, increased stress levels seem inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Stress is real,” emphasizes Angela Melzer, director of Integrated Health at Yampa Valley Medical Center. “Your body actually changes in response to stress in ways that are not healthy, so it’s important to take care of yourself during the holidays.”

It’s natural to want to give to others this time of year, she said, but giving too much without adequate stress relief can lead to resentment or fatigue.

There are three components of stress — physical, emotional/mental and energetic stress — and specific antidotes to each.

Relieving physical stress

“When we get stressed, our body reacts with a predictable flight-or-fight response,” Melzer said. “Today’s fast-paced world can leave us with a constant, low-level feeling of stress.”

Movement is essential to reducing physical stress. “Get outside,” Melzer said, “and get your heart rate up. Throw a ball to the dog, go for a brisk walk and let your breath out slowly. If you’re shopping in Steamboat, park a few blocks away and walk the Core Trail to your destination.

“The simple act of touching also relieves physical stress,” Melzer notes. “Hold hands with your partner, hug a friend or pet the dog to release the healing power of touch.”

Massage therapy is another way to add healing touch to your holiday experience. Massage changes the body from the hyped-up, danger-is-imminent, physical stress response to the “rest and relax” response, Melzer said. Massage also helps release endorphins — chemicals that help us feel pleasant, rested and restored.

Alleviating mental stress

“The antidote to mental/emotional stress is being present,” Melzer said. “How many times do we leave the house and not even remember how we got to our destination? That happens when we aren’t paying attention to our surroundings and get caught up in our thoughts.”

To reduce mental and emotional stress, allow yourself to pay attention to your senses instead of worrying. “If you are stressed out about your surroundings, concentrate on what you can enjoy at that moment — the colors, smells, sounds and tactile sensations of the season,” Melzer said.

By noticing what you are experiencing in the moment, a person moves “out of the head” and into real life, she added.

“The best way to stay present is to focus on breathing. It’s who we are — living, breathing human beings, and our breath can help us remember that fact,” Melzer said.

Revitalizing your energy

“We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, physically, mentally/emotionally and energetically,” Melzer said. “You can balance your energy through prayer, meditation or taking in the wonders of nature.”

Qigong (pronounced chee-gong) gives people another effective way to enhance their energy. Chinese medicine uses Qigong Healing to relieve stress, pain, confusion and emotional overload. Qigong classes or individual sessions promote deep relaxation, leaving us feeling refreshed, energized and clearly on our path in life, Melzer said.

“Looking at stress from a mind-body-spirit approach is the essence of Integrated Health Services at YVMC. We support traditional Western medicine with time-tested, alternative and complementary therapies,” Melzer said.

“To truly enjoy the holidays, be sure to address not only physical stress, but also the mental/emotional and energetic stress factors,” Melzer added.

More information about Integrated Health is available at www.yvmc.org/integrated

health.

Patricia Moore is a marketing and communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at patricia.moore@yvmc.org.

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