The holidays are fast approaching and don’t they always bring extra stress along with them? Yes, the holidays are a wonderful time of year with friends and family, but there are also extra responsibilities in the form of decorating the house, company parties, school plays, gifts to buy for teachers, trips to see family, extra food to make, and generally trying a make a merry time that will be remembered fondly by all.
You do a lot and adding in a bit of extra self-care is totally deserved! You don’t have to choose activities that take a lot of time or break the bank. Simple activities that encourage you to slow down and breathe will help make the holidays more happy for all. Here are five ways to show yourself some love:
1. Epsom salt baths. Doctors cite many health benefits from either soaking your feet or taking a bath in Epsom salt, including: soothing muscle pain and aches, providing itch relief from sunburn and poison ivy, removing splinters, decreasing swelling and boosting your body’s levels of magnesium and sulfate. It’s an inexpensive product with big benefits and can be purchased at any grocery or drug store. Make your bath next level by adding a few drops of essential oils.
2. Take a walk outdoors. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D and don’t know it. We are inside much of the time and if we’re out in the sun for extended periods of time, we use sunblock. But sunshine is an important source of vitamin D and if you’re not getting enough, it can lead to a whole host of problems—decreased bone density, muscle aches, mood disorders, and a weaker immune system, to name a few. Sunlight also boosts serotonin in the brain, which improves mood. Taking a walk outdoors, getting some sunlight, and breathing fresh air is an easy way to add a pick-me-up to your day.
3. Snuggle an animal. Petting an animal lowers cortisol levels in the body, which contribute to stress. Prolonged physical affection, for at least 15 minutes, increases levels of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body cope with stress. And, as if that wasn’t good enough, your brain releases endorphins when petting your best bud, which helps create a feeling of happiness and satisfaction.
4. Get out of your chair and stretch. We sit so much and your body quickly gets stiff and achy. Just getting up and doing a few stretches will help you feel more energized and limber. Stand and reach as tall as you can through your fingertips, like you’re trying to touch the ceiling. Slowly fold your upper body over and stretch with straight legs (or just slightly bent knees). Release your neck by gently shaking your head yes and no. Bend one knee, stretching through the opposite hip, and then switch sides. Slowly roll up and repeat as many times as needed.
5. Smile! Studies show that participants who made themselves smile, either physically (using chopsticks to make their mouths form the shape of a smile) or by just plain-old smiling, had lower heart rate levels after recovery from stressful activities, though “real” smiles, involving the whole face, had a stronger effect than the manufactured smiles. In other words, smiling actually influences your physical state.
Of course, exercise always makes you feel better in so many ways so don’t let the holidays interrupt your workouts too much. Continue to make fitness a priority. Involve some family members and introduce them to something new!