It’s the second week of December.  Chances are you’re up to your eyeballs in parties, shopping, plans, food, family, events, parking, crowds . . . and you may be feeling a little stressed.  Here are 5 natural ways to reduce stress at any time of year, even during the Holidays:

 1.  Mind Your Vitamins.  Vitamins B and D both have a direct impact on your mind and help ease anxiety and stress.  Whole food sources of both vitamins B and D are liver, egg yolk, and fish, but most people don’t consume enough of these foods to get adequate amounts of vitamin B and D.  I suggest taking a supplement.  There are many forms of vitamin B (B5, B6, B12, etc), and though B6 and B12 are particularly helpful in combating anxiety, taking a vitamin B supplement with a good blend of B vitamins helps them all absorb better than isolating them.  Make sure you’re taking a good vitamin D3 supplement, especially if you’re celebrating the Holidays where it’s cold and you’re not getting much if any sun.

2.  Get Magnesium.  Magnesium is often called the “relaxation mineral.”  It also helps ease stress (as well as relax muscles), and like vitamin D it is very difficult to get enough from dietary sources.  Try taking a supplement of 500 – 800 mg per day, and pair it with at least the same amount of calcium so it will absorb.

I also highly recommend taking an Epsom salt bath (Epsom salts are mostly magnesium).  Baths are great for relaxation, it’s probably freezing cold where you live, and the magnesium will absorb through your skin.

3.  Breathe.  This may sound like a no-brainer, but how many times do you actually take deep, full breaths throughout the day (not just enough to keep yourself conscious)?  How many times do you catch yourself holding your breath?

 To get yourself back on track quickly, count to at least five as you breathe out (get all your breath out of your body), and count to that same number again as you breathe in (fill your body with breath).  Focus your mind entirely on your breathing as you do this. 

If you can make meditation a part of your day, even for 5 – 15 minutes, this will help you create a habit of breathing deeply and fully, which will decrease your stress greatly.

 4.  Do something you enjoy each day.  Brainstorm and come up with 7 different things that make you feel relaxed or that you enjoy.  Make sure at least 3 are easy to do, inexpensive, and don’t involve food.  Then take at least 15 minutes a day to do one of the things from your list. 

 5.  Avoid stressful situations and influences, and maybe even come up with alternatives.  For example, news media is usually pretty negatively focused, so instead of checking headlines when I sit down to my computer to start my day, I take that 5 minutes and check out the latest blog post from someone I think is hilarious or check for new pictures of my nieces and nephews (things that make me laugh and make me happy). 

During the holidays, Brad and I have never once been to a shopping mall because the crowds and parking are stressful, and of all places Holiday cheer seems to be thin on the ice with people doing Christmas shopping.  We purchase gifts online and spend the time we would go shopping to attend Holiday events that put us in touch with why we’re celebrating the Holiday season, which makes us feel happy and calm. 

Don’t let the Holidays (or any time of year) get your blood pressure going.  Try out the suggestions listed above and see how you feel.  Hopefully you will feel more relaxed and better able to experience and enjoy this time of year.

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