Staying healthy is no easy feat, especially during the holidays, with sugar-laden treats and temptations to drink around every corner. Not to mention, memories of past holidays can trigger difficult emotions for those grieving a lost loved one. Add mental illness, loneliness and post-traumatic stress disorder into the mix, and the holidays can be downright difficult for many.

The good news is there are steps you can take to combat holiday stress. Prairie Ridge’s health and wellness coach, Cody Huisman, Doctor of Chiropractic, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, shares tips on keeping stress at bay.

To manage stress, he explains, an open mind is a must. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” Huisman says. “Everybody is going through different things. So the idea is finding what’s right for the individual.”

At the top of his list for beating stress? Exercise.

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There are many different ways to get exercise. Aim for at least 20 minutes of activity a day. For instance, taking a walk first thing in the morning, even if it’s a little bit cold out and you have to bundle up, will alleviate stress. Moving the body helps manage hormones such as serotonin. Low serotonin can lead to anxiety and depression.

“Try to get outside,” Huisman says. “Try to get some sunlight onto the body.” Sunlight helps your skin produce vitamin D, which can also help regulate mood.

Feeling panic right now? Breathe.

Breath work can help reduce stress quickly. To get started, he recommends to breathe in through the nose, hold for a count then slowly exhale through the mouth. Focusing on breathing with a slow and long exhale will calm the mind and body.

Next up on the list: Eliminate the use of drugs or alcohol to ward off the blues.

Alcohol is a depressant. “While drinking may numb the feelings in the short-term, it can have detrimental effects to the body and your mental health over the long term; drugs may also have a similar effect,” Huisman says.

Food-wise, try to avoid highly processed foods and refined sugars, which can cause inflammation in the body and wreak havoc on your health and stress levels.

Studies show inflammation is a pathway to depression and diseases, according to Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Another stress-relieving tip from Huisman: Do community service or volunteer to help others.

“When you volunteer, you shift your focus from me-centered to we-centered. You alter your focus from the situation you’re dealing with to the positive experience of helping others, helping to reframe your outlook,” he said.

To get the most out of volunteering, find something that is meaningful to you, whether that’s helping out the elderly or working with animals in a shelter.

Another important way to reduce holiday stress is to occupy your time with meaningful connections. “Seek social support, which can be another benefit of volunteering or by spending intentional time with loved ones, friends and/or animals,” Huisman recommends.

Also, try to keep a positive attitude by focusing on good things that you have in your life. Whether it’s expressing gratitude for waking up that day and taking a walk or admiring a photo of a happy memory, thinking of positive things will put you in a better frame of mind.

Contact Prairie Ridge at 641.424.2391 to learn more.

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