By George Esser
Imagine that you are camping and when you open your tent flap, you are confronted with a wild animal. Your heart starts to race, your body pumps adrenaline into every cell, your heart beats faster, you tense up, your breathing changes and you are ready for some kind of action. This is called stress.
Your body is doing what it was designed to do. In dangerous situations, your body goes into a “fight or flight” state. The problem is that your body doesn’t know the difference between a car careening towards you, a looming job loss, or thoughts of the busy season ahead. Your body responds to all of these types of situations with its internal stress response.
The holiday season with all its extra festivities will soon be upon us. Though in many ways it is a wonderful time of year in which we get to spend time with friends and family, it is often also a very stressful time. Much of society runs on stress a large percent of the time, not just during the holiday season. The problem with the stress response is that the more it is activated, the harder it is to shut off, so that over time our stress hormones, our heart rates, and our blood pressure remain elevated, even after a particular crisis may have passed. This is why managing stress is very important for our health.
Here are some tips to help you reduce stress:
- Give yourself extra time. When we are pressed for time, our subconscious puts our body into stress mode. Give yourself 10 extra minutes and you will be less stressed.
- Do as much as you can before hand. Start your purchasing of gifts well in advance, as well as baking, decorating, and extra cleaning.
- When travelling, leave 10-15 minutes earlier and drive a little slower. While it will take you a few minutes longer to get to where you need to go, you will arrive much more relaxed. Use your travel time as ‘down time’, not as something that leaves you more stressed out.
- Learn to enjoy the moment. When you are feeling negative emotions about a situation, ask yourself if what is happening is really going to make a difference a year from now. Most ‘mini-disasters’ make a memory. For example, a few years ago my family decided to have our first fondue. It wasn’t the best experience, especially when the table cloth caught on fire due to a little carelessness on my part. But the house is still standing and we still laugh about this when we reminisce.
- Make sure you are building enough “down time” into the holiday season. You need some quiet time to rejuvenate and you also need to ensure that you get adequate sleep.
- Go for a brisk walk or workout.
- Make sure that you are getting adequate magnesium in your diet. Most of us need supplementation due to the fact that it is almost impossible because of today’s farming techniques to get enough from the food we eat. Stress actually depletes the magnesium levels in our bodies. We need to understand that there are two key minerals — calcium and magnesium— whose roles are like two opposite sides of a coin. Calcium excites our nerves and makes our muscles contract, while magnesium is necessary for our muscles to relax. Magnesium also keeps our blood flowing while calcium helps it clot. Our cells are normally in a relaxed state when they contain magnesium. But when we are under stress, they go through a change. Calcium, which is normally outside of our cells, rushes into our cells. This in turn forces the magnesium out. If you are deficient in magnesium, then there is a physical reason why you can’t relax or sleep at night. Just a few symptoms of magnesium deficiency include insomnia, migraine headaches, muscle aches, PMS, and heart palpitations. Because magnesium is necessary for more than 350 bodily functions, this list is just the beginning of all the symptoms that are a result of magnesium deficiency. One important thing to realize is that not all magnesium is the same. Most laxatives use magnesium as their main ingredient in the form of magnesium oxide. Because the body has a hard time digesting it, it puts it into the colon, causing it to hydrate and work as a laxative. The best form of magnesium is liquid magnesium, but that is also the most expensive. The best cost-effective magnesium is a citrate powder. You simply add hot water to the powder which converts it into a liquid. For most people, the best time to take this is about ½ hour before bed time. Many people find that it really makes a difference in their ability to sleep, giving them a peaceful, restful sleep. Magnesium citrate is a good choice because it is a mineral in a citric acid form that is much more bio-available to the body. Tablets and capsules generally are not as absorbable as the liquid form.
Challenge yourself this holiday season. You really can make it the most relaxing one you’ve had in a long time by making a few small changes along the way. Don’t forget to take your soothing magnesium supplement to help your body along.