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HEALTHY LIVING — Take a deep breath, focus and relax

As we are caught up in the whirl of holiday festivities, with that comes a little or a lot of stress.

Depending on your life circumstances it can just be a part of the seasonal activities or it can really disrupt your good times. People who don’t manage stress well can have headaches, stomach pain, sleeping problems, illness, and depression. People attempt to cope with this in several ways; among them are what we call “stress eating”, abandoning all of our otherwise healthy habits and nibbling constantly on everything that we know is bad for us.

Another really bad way to cope is over indulging in alcohol. The after-effects of either of these end up creating a lot more stress. There are better solutions.

Try not to over extend yourself. It’s really easy to do any time of the year, but especially during the holidays. Not only do packed schedules cause stress, but often, interactions with unpleasant people add to it. Here are a few tips to help you lower your stress levels and keep your holidays merry and bright:

Practice positive thinking. Decide up front to be loving and amazing. Be unprovokable and unoffendable. Research repeatedly reaffirms the idea that people who think positively reap emotional and health benefits for the long-term.

Take yourself out of the equation. Be in another room, come late or leave early. Already in a conversation? Change the subject, move on to something else and try not to let those “buttons” get pushed. Step outside to get a breath of fresh air.

Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation can help you manage the stresses of your everyday life.

Connect with others. Friendships and companionships, your own personal support network, can help you deal with life’s problems.

Exercise boosts endorphins, brain chemicals that improve your mood. Even light exercise can relax you, though harder workouts offer greater health rewards. Just 20 minutes a day will help calm your mind and lower stress hormones.

Limit stimulants, such as caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. Unplug; turn off the media for a set period each day. We are so wrapped up in social media and staying on top of what’s going on in the world, turn off your phone/computer/tablet and take a little me time.

Even if it’s only for 5 minutes, sit quietly, practice slow, deep breathing. Picture yourself in a calm and peaceful place, such as a beach. Imagine walking through this place and taking in its sights, sounds, and smells. Feel the stress flow out of your body

Eat well. Foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges and grapefruits, may help lower your stress hormones. Omega-3s, like those found in salmon and other fatty fish, as well nuts and seeds, may also be calming. Fueling your body well with a balanced diet can help keep your body healthy and better able to handle stress. Part of eating well means focusing on getting whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Dark chocolate may have a calming effect by lowering stress hormones.

Get enough rest at night; go for at least 7 hours. It’s very important to allow your mind and body enough time to recharge.

Did you read these and just think, “Not my thing”? Try one or two of these helpful tips. Who knows, you just might feel a little less stressed. Enjoy the festivities of the holiday season, but make time for yourself. Live healthy, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health and wellness for The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com