The holiday season is in full swing. Signs of it greet us everywhere; decorations line the streets and fill the stores and Christmas music fills the air. While the holidays have a reputation for being a time of joy, for many people they are a source of increased stress or even depression. If you find yourself feeling less than joyous this holiday season and are wondering why, you’re not alone. Keep reading to better understand the sources of holiday stress and what you can do to improve your holiday experience.
Because many of us are so used to carrying around tension, it can be difficult to recognize when our muscles are tense. Even when we scan our bodies for tension, we may overlook it because it feels "normal." In order to increase your awareness of tension, you have to learn to recognize it. Try intentionally tensing a muscle for 5-7 seconds and then quickly releasing the tension while paying close attention to the sensations of tension and then relaxation. Relax each muscle for about 30 seconds. (This is best done lying down so you don't have to rely on your muscles to support your posture). By doing this with each of our muscle groups, we can learn to more easily identify and release unnecessary tension throughout the day.
Not sure how to tense a certain muscle group? Check out this chart.
Have you ever noticed that your mind is rarely where you are? We're usually either thinking about what we've already done, what we plan to do, or what we wish we'd done differently. This can detract from truly experiencing your life, and can result in negative emotions. Try taking some time each day to be present in the moment. During this time, try to really focus on what you are doing. Notice all of the sensations you are experiencing. Try not to judge your experience. When you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the present. Try not to get frustrated by your wandering mind. Just notice it and move on. The more you practice, the less you'll find your mind wandering, and the easier it will be to be present in any given moment.
This practice, also known as mindfulness, can help you to feel more centered and help to manage negative emotions such as distress about the past or anxiety about the future. Research also shows that even short periods of daily mindfulness practice may lead to positive changes in brain structure. Click here for more information about how mindfulness positively impacts your brain and mental health.
Watching television may seem like a good way to relax, but it may actually have a negative impact on your physical and psychological health. Try rating your mood before and after watching television. Compare this to your mood before and after engaging in other relaxing activities, such as reading, talking to friends, taking a walk, or taking a bath. How does the effect of watching television compare to these other activities?