The holidays are mostly over and 2015 is just around the corner.  I know the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year” and it is really celebratory, but part of me feels worn out and exhausted.  Everyone spends so much time and effort in a pressured peppermint frenzy preparing for the day of that it feels like nobody stops to take a minute and breathe.  To top that, this year Christmas at my house was cancelled because so many of my family were sick with the flu and the week was a blur of hand sanitizer, laundry, and Lysol spray.  I need a holiday from my holiday.  Holidays are cool, but holidays are also stressful.  And it sort of makes me want to punch some of those eternally cheerful sparkling elves in the face…..

Yeah, Right.
So what’s a girl to do?  I could completely lie and tell you that I have it all figured out, that it is SO easy to take a minute and take good care of yourself.  But I have MS and I’m not going to pretend that everything is just amazing.  I also have a bad habit of worrying about things I cannot control and a hard time telling people I care about NO.  It is the perfect recipe for anxiety, stress, and feeling lousy.  I did a bit of research for myself about what stress actually does to your/my health and what I should think about. explains why stress causes headaches (like the one I have right now).  “Your brain’s in pain.  When you’re stressed, your hormones set off a series of neurochemical events in your brain that stimulates your nerves and causes your blood vessels to swell. The result: tension headaches and migraines. There are ways to cope, however. Studies have shown that people who practice relaxation and stress-management techniques cut the number of headaches they have by as much as 35 to 50 percent.”
Okay,  I’m listening.  They also write, You pack on the pounds.  “When your body perceives stress, it assumes you need physical energy to protect yourself and releases adrenaline and cortisol,” explains Pamela Peeke, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore. “These hormones trigger the sensation of being hungry — which women, especially, respond to by eating fats and carbs.””
This season, I’ve eaten, and eaten and eaten.  Awesome.
The Mayo Clinic here lists what stress does to the body:
Common effects of stress …
… On your body … On your mood … On your behavior
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal
It isn’t healthy.  Stress gets stored in muscles and everything starts to ache.  Then you get sick.  Stress has the unique ability of wearing the body down so it’s harder for the immune system to fight off the colds and flu that everyone so freely shares.  

I hate new year’s resolutions because it seems like setting yourself up to fail.  I do like minor lifestyle changes that turn into major lifestyle changes.  I’m resolving to do little things instead.  

Mayo Clinic has tons of stress advice so I chose suggestions that seemed feasible for a normal person.  Let me know what works for you! 

Saying NO

The number of worthy requests isn’t likely to lessen, and you can’t add more time to your day. Are you doomed to be overcommitted? The answer is no, not if you’re willing to say no. It may not be the easy way, but it is a path to stress relief.
Keep in mind that being overloaded is individual. Just because your co-worker can juggle 10 committees with seeming ease doesn’t mean you should be able to. Only you can know what’s too much for you.
Consider these reasons for saying no:
  • Saying no isn’t necessarily selfish. When you say no to a new commitment, you’re honoring your existing obligations and ensuring that you’ll be able to devote high-quality time to them.
  • Saying no can allow you to try new things. Just because you’ve always helped plan the company softball tournament doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. Saying no gives you time to pursue other interests.
  • Always saying yes isn’t healthy. When you’re overcommitted and under too much stress, you’re more likely to feel run-down and possibly get sick.
  • Saying yes can cut others out. On the other hand, when you say no, you open the door for others to step up. They may not do things the way you would, but that’s OK. They’ll find their own way.

Better Sleep

  • Find ways to relax. A warm bath before bedtime can help prepare you for sleep. Having your partner give you a massage also may help relax you. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as reading, soft music, breathing exercises, yoga or prayer.
  • Make the bed comfortable. Having a comfortable pillow and mattress can help promote a good night’s sleep. In general, latex, contour foam and polyester pillows perform better than feather or regular foam pillows, but the choice comes down to your personal preference. Similarly, the choice of a firm or soft mattress is largely a matter of individual preference. You may need to experiment to find what works for you.
  • Create a sleep-friendly space. Close your bedroom door or create a subtle background noise, such as a running fan, to help drown out other noises. Keep your bedroom temperature comfortable, usually cooler than during the day and dark. Don’t keep a computer or TV in your bedroom.
  • Hide the clocks. Set your alarm so that you know when to get up, but then hide all clocks in your bedroom, including your wristwatch and cellphone. You’ll sleep better if the clocks are out of view.
  • Get out of bed if you’re not sleeping. Sleep as much as needed to feel rested, and then get out of bed. The bedroom should be used for sleep and intimacy. So, if you can’t sleep, get out of bed after 20 minutes and do something relaxing, such as reading, rather than lying in bed and getting frustrated about your wakefulness.

Types of relaxation techniques

Health professionals such as complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, doctors, and psychotherapists can teach various relaxation techniques. But if you prefer, you can also learn some relaxation techniques on your own.
In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing your attention on something calming and increasing awareness of your body. It doesn’t matter which relaxation technique you choose. What matters is that you try to practice relaxation regularly to reap its benefits.
There are several main types of relaxation techniques, including:
Autogenic relaxation. Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this relaxation technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress.
You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
Progressive muscle relaxation. In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group.
This helps you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You become more aware of physical sensations.
One method of progressive muscle relaxation is to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
Visualization. In this relaxation technique, you form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation.  During visualization, try to use as many senses as you can, including smell, sight, sound and touch. If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves and the warmth of the sun on your body. You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot and loosen any tight clothing.


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