Between the cooking, the shopping, the parties, and the out-of-town guests, the holidays can easily veer from celebratory to stressful. We've partnered with Elysium Health to bring you easy tips for staying healthy—in body and in spirit—throughout the busy season. Elysium is focused on helping people live healthier for longer, with products based on cutting-edge advances in the science of aging.
I have always been staunchly against premature holiday decorating: The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, and not a minute earlier. But this year I decided to live dangerously, and put my whole holiday kit and caboodle up by mid-November. The goal was to give myself some extra days of holiday cheer—reading a book by twinkle lights is an activity that warms my soul—but what I actually got was a two-week head start on stressing about every single thing I need to do this holiday season.
Just as I was reaching peak fret, a pal asked me to tag along to her favorite yoga class. While I am as far from a "Yoga Person" as one could possibly be (the only pose I've successfully held for any length of time is known as Corpse Pose, where you lay flat on your back like a dead body until you fall asleep), there’s no denying that doing a few yoga-esque stretches every day is among the best, least expensive stress relievers out there.
I've incorporated three of them into my daily routine: Two that you can do from the comfort of your cozy bed as bookends to a long, busy day, and one that you can perform while seated at your office chair without too many weird looks from your co-workers. These stretches are helpful year-round, but are really the perfect antidote to holiday anxiety—because, if you're anything like me, you’ll be spending long stretches of December holding your breath with your shoulders somewhere up around your ears.
I've heard a lot of motivational talks supporting the idea of waking up the "right way" every day, the core of which of is striking a “power pose” before you even get out of bed. The wisdom is that if you stretch your entire body out like a starfish—arms raised above your head in a "V" for victory, legs spread wide with feet and ankles flexed to lengthen your Achilles Heel and calf muscles—you’ll set yourself up for a more positive to start the day.
I like to do this pose every morning (while still under the covers!) simply because it helps get my blood going and loosens up stiff muscles and joints, saving me from hobbling down the stairs like Frankenstein before he’s had his morning coffee. It’s an especially good way to fight the urge to sleep the day away that comes the morning after a holiday party, and you really only have to do the stretch for 30 seconds to get the full benefit.
I try to take any minute I can steal during the workday (or any time my computer decides to perform its famous rainbow wheel function) to stretch out my lower back and get some blood flowing into my arms without having to get up from my desk or take off my headphones. The simple act of interlacing your fingers behind your head, arching your back and breathing deeply while stretching your hands and elbows skyward acts as an instant brain refresher, helping your mind bat away anxiety and stress.
The same motion lengthens the tendons in your elbows, which can get pinched from being constantly bent while using a computer all day long. (I should know—it’s a real and painful thing called "computer elbow," and sadly, I’ve got it.) This trick also works wonders if you need a break from holiday shopping at the mall, as it will give your tired arms and shoulders a much-needed boost of circulation after carrying gifts around for hours on end. (Those things get heavy, fast.)
My favorite relaxation hack is one I got from my grandmother, who still (at age 98) puts her legs straight up against a wall (or bed headboard) for five to 10 minutes every night to reduce the possibility of getting varicose veins. She’s doing it for vanity’s sake, but this trick is aces if you start to feel your legs getting heavy at the end of a long day, as it reverses the effects of gravity on your legs and feet, getting the blood back into circulation. It also helps force quietness and sanity into my mind, which is something I greatly need when stressed to the max by the idea of cooking Christmas Eve dinner for 12 in my tiny kitchen built for two. (What on earth was I thinking?)
The holidays may be a stressful time of year, but I’m calmed just by knowing how easy it is to use my body as a tool to force my mind off the path of worry and anxiety. And, just like I a got a head start on my Christmas decorations, I’m making super-early New Year’s resolutions, too. I’m not going to pack these three moves away with the ornaments and stockings—instead, I’ll keep them handy year round, ready to be pressed into service anytime stress starts to creep up and take over.
What are your go-to tricks for de-stressing during the holidays? Let us know in the comments!
To bring you easy tips for staying healthy this holiday season, we've partnered with Elysium Health, makers of the supplement Basis. Basis was developed by world-class scientists working with over 25 years of aging research, and was specifically designed to optimize health on the cellular level. For the holidays, Basis will be offered in a two-bottle gift set that's 17% off through the end of the month.