Self-care for handling holiday-induced stress

Appreciate water

Start every day with a large glass of lukewarm water. Fill your favorite glass with water and drink it slowly, followed by taking some deep breaths into your abdomen. This morning ritual helps keep your body hydrated and relaxed at a time when more-than-usual amounts of alcohol and caffeine (both dehydrators) meet higher-than-usual stress levels.

Go with the flow (literally)

There is a famous Chinese medical saying: Bu tong ze tong, tong ze bu tong. This is roughly translated as, "If there is not free flow, there is pain. If there is free flow, there is no pain." In other words, physical and emotional health is achieved when there is free flow throughout the channels of the body. Things never go according to plan. Whether it's to do with travel, food or gift-giving. Focus less on the details and more on your ability to flow through them. Keep flowing forward and you'll have a less stressful holiday season.

Forget the 'shoulds'

Acupuncture is centered around the notion that we are ever changing, evolving beings. Nothing is set in stone. There are no golden rules or absolute truths. When we fail to think of ourselves as the constant works-in-progress that we are, there's a tendency to start imposing a lot of "shoulds" on ourselves. So many of us place undue expectations on ourselves. By making a real effort to stop the 'shoulds,' it frees you up to live without the pressure and guilt that has a tendency to increase this time of year.

Get out in nature

Taking just three minutes a day to notice the natural world around you can be a refreshing de-stressor amid the holiday madness. Getting out in nature at holiday time is not only a nice break but also a reminder of the magnificent gifts that surround us every day.

Strive for balance

Think about time and money in terms of balance. If you find yourself with extra time in the coming weeks, offer help to those who don't. If you're really strapped for time, ask for help. With gifts, ask yourself what you can offer that will help others without hurting you. Gifts come in all forms and should feel good on the receiving and giving end.

Find middle ground

Holidays generally involve a lot of over doing it — too much food, too many drinks, too much spending, too many late nights, too much stress. It happens, but it shouldn't be used as an excuse for going to extremes in the other direction. Extreme taxation on your body in either direction will throw things into further imbalance. If you have a wild night, take a day to let your body recover and naturally regain its strength.

Rub your ears

Rubbing your ears is a great stress-reduction tool. Use your thumb and index finger to apply acupressure to the whole ear, moving from the top of the ear down to the earlobes. You can do this simultaneously on both sides.

Brush your teeth with purpose

Acupuncture teaches us to tune into the ordinary. It heightens our awareness by requiring us to pay attention to subtle shifts. This is something we can practice on our own, by being more mindful in our daily routines. When we are more present in each moment, we aren't bogged down by the various holiday stressors that surround us.

Remember your power

When you feel stress piling up, ask yourself some questions: How am I handling myself? And when I look back on this in 10 years, am I acting like the kind of person I want to see? Reflecting on your answer and then striving to act consistently with your ideal self-image.

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