The holiday season is almost here. And while most everyone looks forward to reconnecting with friends and loved ones, this is also a time when stress and anxiety abound. It’s an established fact that the holidays can take a toll on our health—physically, mentally, and emotionally. But don’t let all the hustle and bustle get the best of you. Instead, add these natural ways to relieve stress to your arsenal and enjoy all that the holidays have to offer.
Natural Stress Relief Tip #1: Get Some Exercise
Physical activity is a powerful, predictable, and safe way to relieve stress naturally. Exercise alters brain chemistry by enhancing production of endorphins—the body’s most powerful mood enhancers.
It also improves insulin resistance and helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which reduces the likelihood of blood sugar swings that may cause nervousness and irritability. Extra energy, better sleep, weight control: All these benefits of exercise enhance your self-confidence and ability to deal with stress. Aim for 30-45 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
Natural Stress Relief Tip #2: Try GABA
Another way to relieve stress naturally is to take gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). An amino acid and also one of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters, GABA works by stimulating receptors that calm down brain activity. That’s why it’s one of my top recommendations for stress and anxiety.
For natural stress relief, I recommend PharmaGABA, the best-absorbed and most effective supplemental form. The suggested dose is 100 mg of PharmaGABA as needed, up to three times daily.
Natural Stress Relief Tip # 3: Eat Dark Chocolate
More than 3,000 scientific papers published on chocolate reveal that flavanols and other flavonoids in cocoa relax arteries, lower blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, curb inflammation, and protect against heart disease and cancer. Equally important at this hectic time of year, chocolate also provides natural stress relief.
Swiss and German researchers found that when individuals with “high anxiety traits” ate 40 g (1.4 ounces) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, they had reduced excretion of stress hormones. Compounds in chocolate stimulate the release of endorphins, serotonin, phenylethylamine, and other neurotransmitters that simply make you feel better. Other components such as theobromine relax the nervous system and increase alertness. Then there’s that creamy mouth sensation that’s characteristic of our favorite comfort foods. For maximum health benefits, stick with dark chocolate, which contains more protective flavonoids and less sugar, and eat it in moderation.
Natural Stress Relief Tip #4: Get a Massage
At the Whitaker Wellness Institute, we consider massage to be a real medical treatment. In addition to being a powerful way to relieve stress naturally, massage also alleviates pain and stiffness and improves range of motion, helps lower blood pressure, and enhances overall sense of well-being.
If you don’t have the time or money to spend on a professional massage, ask your spouse or a loved one—and give them one in return. You may be surprised at how therapeutic a five-minute, stress-relieving shoulder rub can be.
Natural Stress Relief Tip #5: Practice Yoga or Tai Chi
Yoga, a 4,000-year-old practice from India that unites the mind, body and spirit, is an excellent way to relieve stress naturally. With a focus on breathing, stretching, and more vigorous poses, yoga is a relaxing form of exercise that improves flexibility and strength.
Like yoga, the graceful choreographed routines of tai chi are excellent for natural stress relief. This fluid, dance-like ritual is a form of martial arts, but focuses on slow, gentle, circular movements. This calming exercise nourishes body and mind, strengthening and relaxing at the same time. It has been used successfully to combat chronic stress and a variety of other health concerns.
Both yoga and tai chi can be learned through YouTube videos, workout DVDs, or local yoga or martial arts studios.
Bonus Stress Relief Tip: Laugh Out Loud
I know I only promised five natural ways to relieve stress but I have to include this last one. It will cost you nothing and it’s easy to do: just laugh. Believe it or not, laughter can actually produce physiological changes in our bodies to combat stress. It inhibits the body’s production of stress-related hormones, increases production of white blood cells, improves blood pressure and heart rate, and reduces tension.
Turn on a funny movie, read a humorous book, tell jokes often… just laugh. It may just be the perfect way to relieve stress naturally.