Deck the Halls with Peace & Calming

Ready to have a Merry Little Christmas?  Or does the month of December set your mind spinning with To do lists, gifts to buy or thoughts of added stress?  Here are some practical steps you can take to help your body manage the stress of the holidays, difficult relationships with family or overwhelming expectations.   These things are not complicated, they can be done by anyone who has the desire to get more out of life regardless of your circumstances.  Whether or not you are taking medication to deal with anxiety, panic attacks or depression, these are simple steps you can take to keep the calm.

Simple Choices These are some simple techniques anyone can try and benefit from.  They are natural and don’t require medication to deal with the stress of daily living, and they just might make you less vulnerable to a panic attack.  If you really want to try and pull it together for the long haul, most of these things are not a quick fix like drugs.  Chances are you already do some of these to some degree, are you ready to take your wellness to the next level?  

Even though these specific things can have a profound impact on your ability to manage stress, they are also healthy habits good for anyone regardless of where you are in your journey to more natural living.  If you are currently on medications for anxiety, panic attacks or depression, fitting these healthy habits into your lifestyle can improve your chances of successfully weaning off prescription drugs down the road.  If you are under medical treatment, talk with your doctor to consider your options. 

#1  Manage your priorities  This is especially important during the holidays when everyone has high expectations.  The best way to do this is to communicate with your family and extended family your plans for the holidays.  It is also important to get good at saying “No” to the activities that are not important to your family.  In the USA we have so many choices of entertainment, food, gifts, an over-abundance of stuff that really isn’t important in the grand scheme of life. 

People and relationships matter, stuff just makes everything more complicated.  If you spend a lot of time figuring out what everybody else is doing to be happy, you are looking in the wrong places.  If  you think you will be happy by going to all the events, buying the right gifts, volunteering for all the parties and taking care of everyone except yourself you are making yourself vulnerable to stress that can lead to anxiety and panic attacks. Lorilee at Loving Simple Living has great articles on managing priorities whether it’s time with your kids or just getting rid of the clutter that’s holding you back from really enjoying life.

#2  Eat well  the Holidays seem to be a time where we allow ourselves to be indulgent.  Buying gifts, vacationing, eating.  Holiday celebrations often center around food, rich and sweet, not very good for the heart and metabolism. Americans are on a set schedule: indulge during the holidays and burn it all off in January.  When you adopt truly healthy living principles into your life, eating well doesn’t just happen seasonally. It’s a way of life and you learn how to make the best choices even when you celebrate.  Food is fuel, and it can be enjoyable too. Cooking  and eating whole foods is a great way to nurture your body and soul. There is something grounding about chopping up fresh veggies and mixing up a simple pot of homemade soup. My favorite this time of the year is chicken soup:

Simple Chicken soup

Fill a 10-12 quart stock pot with 1 whole, organic chicken, cover with water and 1 tsp of vinegar to draw the calcium out of the bones.  Bring to a boil. Simmer 6-8 hours until meat falls off bones

While this cools, chop:

  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 stalks of celery

Strain out the broth and separate the chicken from the bones.

Saute the vegetables in a 2 T olive oil, add the chicken broth plus optional add ins:

  • 1 T white organic Miso paste
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 T fresh parsley chopped
  • Pasta or rice
  • additional spices or sea salt to taste
  • Add the cut up chicken last

#3  Rest well  You’ve probably already experienced the affects on your body from lack of rest. Sleep is a basic body function and not getting enough sleep will have immediate affects on your ability to concentrate and cope with daily stress. Ongoing sleeplessness is one of those conditions that can be a symptom or a cause of anxiety and panic attacks.  Lack of sleep throws your body balance and chemistry off which in turn may fuel other symptoms of stress, causing a viscous cycle. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, try these simple approaches to bring on a restful nights sleep: 

  • Don’t eat a full meal too close to bedtime
  • Make sure you get enough calcium & magnesium (I like a  Mega Calcium mix which is mixed into water and absorbed quickly) that help to calm your central nervous system down
  • Do some deep breathing exercises:  exhaling greater than your inhale is  a calming breath
  • Take a warm bath before heading to bed
  • Breath in some lavender, sandalwood or frankincense essential oils. Ruta-Valerian essential oil blend is great for helping bring on deep sleep. It contains valerian which helps to lull your body into a sweet nights sleep.  My friend Deb, went through breast cancer almost twenty years ago. She never slept well after her treatments – all the waking through the nights from nurses and doctors had trained her to sleep lightly.  A year ago she started using a Ruta-Valerian blend, finally her ticket to a solid nights rest.

#4 Deal with stress I think it’s part intuition, part yoga instructor in me, but I can read stress on people’s body pretty quickly.  Now don’t go avoiding me, I have plenty of my own stressful moments, it’s then that my humorous husband suggests that I consider taking up yoga :/.   Some of the signs are more obvious than others, some only you know yourself.  

There are 3 hot spots for tension:  the neck & shoulders, the back and your stomach (digestive upset:  If the sales of Prilosec are any indication of how stressful a society we are, we are not in good shape).  Taking drugs is a quick fix for dealing with stress and it won’t take care of the smaller symptoms that may land you in a panic attack or with an anxiety disorder because you haven’t been taking care of the issues that are causing the stress.  Practicing yoga gives your body time relax and reverse the affects stress has on all your body parts in addition to stretching out the other parts that are physically tight from stressful tension (shoulders & backs) Practice a deep relaxing breath (larger exhale than your inhale) will make you feel better any time of the day.

#5 Clean up your home and personal care environments  We are obviously chemical beings.  We are surrounded by chemicals, many of them we knowingly apply to our bodies in the form of scented gels and lotions, perfumes and sprays, some we burn or plug in an outlet to spray chemicals into the air.  Many of these chemicals are entering our bloodstream and circulating everywhere, including our brains. They will impact your body’s ability to deal with stress.  I know, because I was a walking chemical cocktail in my early twenties. 

I drank lots of coffee, diet soda and packaged foods. I loved hot chocolate.  The hotter the better. And it was out of a can, convenient.  I just had to add water. It wasn’t just ordinary hot chocolate, it was “sugar free”, cause I was “health conscious” and sugar free is better, right?  Not if it’s in the form of artificial sweeteners like Nutrasweet, that turns to methyl alcohol when it is heated.  Hmmm…..I also ate plenty of food from packages, I wore perfume every day. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I suffered from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks.  I remember one evening in particular, getting ready for a business Christmas party, something I was looking forward to.  I had on full make-up, plenty of scented personal care products including the last spritz of perfume as I walked out the door.  I probably had a cup of sugar free hot chocolate before cause the weather was getting chilly.  On the way to the party, I fell apart in the car with vertigo, dizziness and then the shortness of breath followed quickly.   We turned around and went home, never made it.  I never made it to the party because of a panic attack.  Thankfully my husband was driving.  Since then I have totally cleaned up our home, the panic attacks gradually went away. 

By my late twenties I had begun to eat more organic foods, got rid of the perfumes and scented products and I haven’t missed them a bit. I think more clearly, have better energy and I haven’t suffered a panic attack since.  And I haven’t looked back one bit.   Well, a little bit, only to see that I was a victim, of marketing, big business, and the synthetic fragrance industry.  It’s a dirty little industry that gets glossed over and glamorized in advertising.  Did you know that

The average perfume has 14 secret chemicals in it’s ingredients? Many of these ingredients scientists are linking to hormone disruption, reproductive disorders and increased stress on the body. These chemicals are even found in the cord blood of babies!  Most of these chemicals have not much testing for safety and companies are not required to disclose all ingredients, thanks to the Fair Trade in Labeling Act that exempt “fragrance”.  

Any product that contains the ingredient “fragrance” is just a mix of unknown chemicals.

As an example, hedione, a jasmine scented chemical (methyl dihydrojasmonate) used in fragrance has only 2 published toxicity reports on PubMED even though over 1,000 metric tons of Hedion are used in the manufacturing of synthetic pefumes.  The Fragrance Industry is a huge, experts predict the perfume industry will reach $36 billion dollars in sales: that does fuel our economy, but at what expense?  Right along with the hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies.  

Natural Living There’s also an economy of local farmers, artists, holistic health practitioners and thousands of home based businesses trying to earn a living, just enough to put food on the table.  This is the economy I want to support, one with less chemicals, better quality of life and things of substance. No secret labels with hidden ingredients, mixed behind closed doors. Chemicals that interact with other products and the user has no way of knowing what happened.  When you use a lot of chemicals in your home, it can get complicated.   But it doesn’t have to be.

#6 Give yourself a break  Our bodies go through seasons of life that require more or less rest:  pregnancies, surgeries, injuries, illness.  Many of these are times we need to let our bodies heal physically and get back into balance.  If you shortcut healing time, physical and emotional, your recovery will actually take longer.  So allow your body to rest if you feel it calling you to do so. Make sure you take care of those basic needs.  Ignoring your body’s natural cues will just teach you to tune out important signals of when it’s OK to exert extra energy and when you need to pull back.  Taking time each week to nurture your body and soul can help release some of the pressures of daily life and give you space to manage your priorities.  Take time each day to be still and think. This is also a good time to practice those simple breathing techniques, journal or pray.  

#7  Diffuse some essential oils or wear them as natural perfume   The synthetic fragrance is a huge industry, it’s also one that is having a negative impact on our hormone, thyroid and endocrine health. As a society we love fragrance, and the good news is essential oils are the whole foods for your personal care.  You can smell great and live a healthy, natural life.  Many essential oils, like the tree oils (frankincense, cedarwood, sandalwood, palo santo to name a few) are natural anti-depressants. They balance our mind and body and help  with concentration and focus.  Diffuse a calming blends with citrus oils or frankincense into the air, or apply a couple of drops to the soles of your feet or pulse points for an earthy, natural fragrance without the chemicals.

#8  Have Faith  What do you put your hope in? Whatever it is will put everything else in perspective. If it’s achieving success, what happens if you lose your job or the market crashes?  If it’s your health, what happens if you get cancer?  If it’s your marriage, what will you do if a divorce comes your way? What gives me real peace through the crazy ups and downs of life is my faith in the God of the Universe.  If you don’t know the Christmas Story and the real reason for Christmas, ask someone who knows.  Or visit a church this Christmas or Easter to find out.  Understanding and claiming the promises of this history for yourself is the real root of lasting peace that passes understanding.

Simple Steps If you or someone close to you suffers from panic attacks, you can start with these simple steps.  I can’t guarantee they will eliminate your symptoms, I’m not a doctor and cannot diagnose, treat or cure any disease.  But will you feel better?  I know you will feel better on some level.  You’ll probably think more clearly, sleep better and have natural energy.  It’s all about making simple choices.  You can still be clean, look and smell good, and enjoy good food.  It’s all REAL, you’ll feel better too!

You Have Choices  Natural products like essential oils are the whole foods for your personal care.  Just make sure you are buying quality ingredients so you don’t just trade one chemical cocktail for another.  Love your products and can’t imagine life without?  Watch for my next article with some simple ways to find natural & healthy options to what you are already using.  Some of these will make great gifts too, for that special someone in your life.

These Statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. If you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks or depression see a medical doctor.

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