There’s nothing sadder in this world
than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.
Just kidding. The Christmas season is magical and exciting no matter what your age, but it can be harder to hold on to that Yuletide spirit as you get older. Choosing the perfect present becomes burdened by a budget, decorating and winter concerts are a strain on an already busy schedule, holiday parties are enjoyed with a guilty mental calorie count. I’m not even going to bring up travel.
The truth is that for a lot of people the holidays can be stressful, and stress puts a serious damper on your immune system. Add that to the number of people you’re around in relatively close quarters and the scene is set for sick days you simply don’t have time for.
I’m kicking back with gift ideas for those people on your list who could do with some relaxation: parents, teachers, party throwers, workaholics… and you.
Treat yourself and stay happy and healthy through December and into the new year.
Note: affiliate links follow.
Wake Up Right
I’ve been attempting to carry out a personal crusade against the alarm but my husband is the kind of the multiple snooze button. Ideally, you want to have a good bedtime routine and go to sleep early enough that you wake up automatically, without an alarm, but I know that’s not realistic for everyone, especially during the dark mornings of Daylight Savings Time. Instead, forego the adrenaline jolts and resulting sleep inertia and be awakened gently with increasing light, simulating sunrise. (This gentle wake-up light alarm clock also allows you to choose nature sounds to wake you, and works the other way, gradually decreasing light at bedtime to help you fall asleep.)
Meditation in the morning
79% of those surveyed in an IDC Research report admitted to checking their phones within 15 minutes of waking up (89% of 18-24 year olds, yikes). That’s stressful, guys. You’re jumping right into the fray by dealing with emails, scanning the news, reading up on whatever the latest outrage is on Facebook (Reese’s peanut butter trees not looking like trees, by the way: not really an outrage, just an aggregation of a handful of people making observations. We’ve reached this weird place where people become outraged about other people being outraged, when nobody was actually outraged to begin with). And then, too much time has already gone by and you’re already running late, rushing around.
Instead, take some time to ease into the day. Clear your mind entirely for calm, focus on your intentions with optimism or empowerment. Studies support again and again that meditation is good for your mind and your body, both short term and long term. For those who can’t shut down their monkey mind or SQUIRREL! mentality, try a guided meditation. I like the OMG I Can Meditate app, which has daily meditations for morning or night as well as short on-the-go options and special meditations for dealing with anxiety or attracting abundance. There’s a free option which can be upgraded to full access paid monthly or yearly.
Aromatherapy to energize your afternoon
We’ve all experienced the way that certain smells can evoke emotions and memories: there’s no denying the feel-goods associated with walking into a house where Thanksgiving dinner has been cooking, or the cleansing of the sinuses and the soul you get from the scent of pine, whether it’s in the forest or a nursery filled with just-arrived Christmas trees. I was sent the GuruNanda Essential Oil Diffuser set for review purposes and I love diffusing the included peppermint oil in the afternoon, when I tend to slump/crash and burn. The set also includes lavender oil, which is calming and great for destressing and relaxing you into sleep.
We use ours in the living room, where everyone can enjoy it and it’s a nice welcome for those walking in the front door, but I keep thinking it would be a great option for a child’s bedroom at night. (Or both. It’s lightweight and easily moved around.) The cool steam would help ward off the dry nasal passageways of winter, the muted changing color lights could act as a nightlight, and the quiet hum is comforting. Plus, the unit shuts down once all the water has evaporated— about 2.5 hours. At $20 for the set it’s honestly a great deal; you only need to use a few drops of essential at a time, so the bottle will last a long time. It’s also easy to pick up since it’s available at Wal-Mart; a similar model from the same company is available from Amazon for a few dollars more, but you have to buy your oils separately.
Take time for tea
The Brits are spot on here. Although there’s not a whole lot of concrete evidence that tea itself does a whole lot for stress, the act of making tea can. Making tea promises comfort, warmth and psychological escape, and one study found that putting the kettle on reduced stress in its subjects by up to a quarter.
My favorite teas of the moment were sent by Choice Organic Teas; organic, fair trade, and manufactured in a certified organic facility where Green-e Certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) from wind power are purchased to offset 100 percent of the facility’s electricity. I love the Breathing Space (peppermint, echinacea and eucalyptus) in the morning, Irish Breakfast ironically in the afternoon, Simply Detox for Sunday brunch, but they offer tons of delicious and health-centric options. Loose leaf teas are available.
Sweat away stress
Getting your daily 30 minute sweat session in clears your head and fills you with those feel good hormones, along with all the obvious health benefits. Exercise helps you to sleep better and can strengthen circadian rhythms, although you may need to experiment to find the best time of day (some people will find it harder to fall asleep too soon after exercising).
I personally recommend a high intensity program like CrossFit, which keeps you completely mentally involved during your relatively short workout: no room to stress about things. You could gift a month of classes to CrossFit, Zumba, swimming, whatever works for you and promise to meet up for class a certain number of times a week. Or, gift a race registration and train together. Just get out there and move— and as a bonus, you won’t pack on those pesky winter pounds.
Brain dump before bed
Losing sleep has many adverse health repercussions along with increased stress levels and suppressed immunity. If the chaos of the holidays along with a never-ending to-do list and a chatty brain keep you from easily drifting off to sleep, journaling can be an immense help. I recommend keeping a notebook next to the bed and on the fronts of pages, dump out the contents of your brain: everything you need to do, things you need to pick up, people you need to call, etc, until the well runs dry. Then, turn the page and list three things you are grateful for that day so that you’ll see them tomorrow night. You’ll go to bed relieved of the burden of worrying you’ll forget something, and with gratitude in your heart.
I’m a firm believer of nice notebooks, they’re just a joy to use and keep you committed. This black leather-bound journal is 8 inches tall with nice paper and gilded edges for just over $11.
What are your favorite ways to destress for a healthier, happier you— during the holidays and beyond?