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Natural Awakenings Boston

Stress Less, Feel Better This Holiday Season

Nov 29, 2012 05:09PM ● By Emily Chan


Happy though they can be, the winter holidays can also be stressful, especially when dealing with crowds and family members. The following tips can help everyone to manage stress and feel more relaxed for the holidays this year.

Identiy What’s Causing the Distress

People can sometimes feel anxious and yet be largely unaware of what’s driving the feeling. During the holidays, the anticipation of family gatherings can produce anxiety, as underlying fears of confrontation, disruption, rejection, looking bad and being criticized begin to surface. Identifying these fears and letting go of the need to please every family member can reduce stress and create more enjoyment. Self-acceptance is the key to feeling at peace with other people and their reactions and responses.

Clearing Out Other People’s Energy

Day-to-day interactions with others bring forth numerous energy exchanges, as people take on some of our energy, or we take on theirs. If, for example, a family member has been caring for a terminally ill person and feels drained and overwhelmed, we may start to feel those same things when we are around them. The following meditation practice can “clean the slate” and bring forth peace and calm:

Sit with feet flat on the floor, feeling the ground under the soles of feet

Breathe deeply and mindfully

Imagine the person whose energy needs to be cleared from yours, noticing where you may feel it in the body (e.g. perhaps some heaviness in the chest)

On each exhalation, feel that person’s energy flow out of your body. You can channel it into the ground, in front of you, behind you or wherever you feel it wanting to go, offering this energy to the universe to be neutralized.

Keep breathing until the process feels complete and notice how emotions or physical sensations may have shifted after the practice


Exercise is a wonderful way to de-stress without needing to mentally process anything. Cortisol, a hormone secreted during the stress response, has a half-life of about an hour and a half. This means that, even after a stressful thought or event, half of the cortisol lingers for 90 minutes, and long-term elevated cortisol levels have many negative effects on the body. Exercise speeds up the excretion of cortisol from the body. It also helps to move qi (energy, in Chinese medicine) that gets stuck when people are stressed.

Epsom Salt Baths

Epsom salts are magnesium bath salts that help to relax tight muscles. Magnesium, which is often depleted during stress, is vital to many cellular functions, including the manufacturing of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Taking the time to wind down and enjoy some solitude in an Epsom salt bath can help us to relax and recollect ourselves. Try adding a few drops of lavender essential oil for a calming effect, eucalyptus oil to clear the sinuses, or rosemary to clear the mind and enhance focus.

During stressful times and events, it often feels impossible or even wasteful to stop and take the time to do stress relieving things. However, it can be one of the most powerful ways to reset the body and actually improve stressful situations. Even though it takes time to care for the mind and body, the resulting feelings of calm and centeredness can increase productivity and effectiveness.

Dr. Emily Chan, ND, practices at the Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine, 777 Concord Ave., Ste. 301, in Cambridge. For more information call 617-299-6151 or visit