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Holiday stress got you in a panic? 3 tips for quick relief

Worried about spending time with family during the upcoming holidays?

Feeling that deep loneliness again as you approach these long hours of darkness without a family to call home?

Whatever December means for you, this time of year we’re all more vulnerable to stress, anxiety and overwhelming emotions. It sneaks up on us when we aren’t looking and throws us off our center. I noticed it today in myself as all the Christmas lights started to turn on all over downtown San Francisco. Once the anxiety floods in, it can feel hard to take back control. Emotions love themselves — once one gets rolling it likes to keep on going. Here’s a few tricks to help you feel calm, stay present and soothe those feelings of panic quickly. 1. Grab an ice pack Ice can be your fast-acting mood-switching miracle. Take an ice pack out of the freezer and hold it directly on the back of your neck where you feel a little dimple at the base of your head. Unlike a swollen muscle, you don’t want to wrap it in a cloth, you want it as cold as possible right on your skin. This can actually Slow Down those feelings of panic, like heart racing, shallow breathing, sweating and shakiness. Try it over your eyes and temples, too. Focus all your attention on the sensations and take it off when it starts to burn (no more than 10 minutes). I always keep a few of the emergency kind that you squeeze to make them cold handy when I fly! 2. Get your blood pumping We’ve all heard it - one of the best medicines for stress is exercise. Did you just read that and feel more anxious? Well, you’re in luck! All you really need to quickly lower a wave of extreme anxiety is a few minutes of Really Intense Exercise: jumping jacks, 10 push ups, run around the block, try to push yourself hard for a short amount of time. Any of these can be another quick fix to get you back in your body and calm the jitters. Anything to release the built up tension and shift your attention to something else: 3. Give yourself a break Distraction can be a great way to shift your attention off the issue at hand and give your mind a chance to relax. Again, the goal is to distract our emotions from re-firing themselves. Distraction can be like a mini-vacation. A bath with nice smelling salts, a favorite tv show, a walk or hike, anything that turns your mind away from the stressful thing it’s fixated on. I like to set a timer for my distraction and tell myself I can go back to thinking about the stressful thing later. Really give yourself total permission to shut off for awhile and hit Pause. Remember, whatever you’re going through this time of year, you’re not alone. As the seasons transition and the days shorten, we feel this time deeply in our Self. Be gentle with your Self and just take it one moment at a time.

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