Avoiding a Holiday Season of Discontent

SATURDAY Dec. 6, 2008 -- For many people, stress is as much a part of the holiday season as family gatherings and good food.

But learning the art of relaxation can help relieve social, financial and other pressures that can take the fun out of this time of year, according to Julie Kosey, manager of integrative health coaching at Duke Integrative Medicine.

"Relaxation is a right, not a privilege," Kosey said in a Duke news release. If you don't learn to relax, she added, stress could take a toll on your personal and professional relationships, health, productivity and overall well-being.

Respecting your personal needs is an important part of mastering relaxation, said Kosey, who offered the following tips:

  • Visualize your ideal holiday. This includes deciding ahead of time which invitations suit your needs and those that don't fit the bill. Don't be afraid to re-evaluate family traditions and start some new ones.
  • Define what relaxation means to you. It could be taking a bubble bath, going for a long walk, working out in the gym, or recharging your batteries with your family. "No matter what your age, people need to play and have something in their life that's enjoyable," Kosey said.
  • Schedule down time. Learn how to enjoy being alone with yourself and/or with your family. Turn off cell phones, computers and play board game, read a book, draw a picture.
  • Be realistic. For example, if you're not the type to do yoga, you probably won't stay at it for very long. Identify what relaxation methods worked best for you in the past and try them. It may be the best way to maintain your motivation to relax.
  • Recognize when you're experiencing too much stress, such as in the form of headaches, insomnia or disagreements with family, friends or co-workers. If you're feeling stressed at work, get some fresh air. At home, step out on the porch. "Even if you have five minutes, do a series of deep inhales and exhales, or visualize a place you'd like to be," Kosey said. "Take a walk or call a friend. A lot can be done in a short amount of time to keep stress at bay."
  • Keep focused on your goal. If you're not convinced it's important to relax, you may not take the steps needed to do it. Determine how relaxation will benefit you -- such as lowering blood pressure -- and concentrate on that reward.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about stress.

Posted: December 2008


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