Ways to de-stress amid holiday madness

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The holidays sometimes feel like a monthlong panic attack. During the holidays, people have such high expectations for things to be perfect. We take on too much, and then feel anxious and stressed out when reality doesn’t measure up to the flawless fantasy in our heads.

The best way to dodge holiday stress is to take a time-out and prioritize what you need to do. Some things are simply more important than others.

Even if you're a veteran multitasker, taking on too much at once can make you feel frenzied over time.

Create a holiday playlist. In fact, nothing makes you feel merry and happy faster than holiday songs. Research shows that listening to music can reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce anxiety.

Also, think about the holiday traditions you love most, whether it is lighting the Hanukkah menorah or singing Christmas carols with your kids.

Try to organize something. When life feels out of control, setting a silverware drawer in order or whipping the gift-wrap box into shape makes you feeling like you have some control.

Try a little acupressure to calm you down. Find the small, slightly tender indentation in the center of your breastbone, press down gently for two minutes and then gradually release the pressure and deepen your breathing.

Everyone wants holidays to be perfect, but no matter how much you plan, something will go wrong. Holidays aren’t about being perfect. They are simply a time to laugh, be with family and share memories.

While the best way to break the holiday blues is to exercise, there are foods that can help with stress.

Avocados are an excellent source of vitamin B6 and folic acid, both of which have been shown to reduce stress by helping to maintain proper nervous system functioning.

Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, a natural mood booster.

Broccoli contains lots of vitamin C which helps control blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Almonds contain 20 percent of your daily recommended value of magnesium, a mineral that can reduce cortisol levels. Studies have shown that magnesium also has a calming effect on the nervous system and promotes better sleep.

The holidays should be about making good memories, not about making things perfect.

There must be a balance between self-care and caring for others.

If you’re feeling lonely, find a church or community center where you can volunteer and be with other people.

Don’t spend more money than you can afford. The holidays are not about going into debt.

There are healthful ways to enjoy your favorite comfort foods.

  • Control portion size.
  • Use a low-fat version such as a salad dressing.
  • When salt is what you crave, try popcorn.

The holidays are around the corner, and alcohol may play a role in your life in the next two months. A drink for celebration is a powerful prescription that can lift someone’s mood, at lest temporarily, and even help with anxiety, but alcohol unfortunately also has the ability to cause you to become more depressed and anxious once it wears off.

Alcohol can serve as a mild aid to the socially sensitive, but it is potential for harm has to be considered.

Dr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to www.drartmollen.com.