Prescription 2019: Holistic Holiday Survival GuideDecember 24, 2019 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Although the title of today’s blog includes the word “survival”, I prefer to think of it as a short-list of resources that can help you thrive this holiday season and beyond. It may be a seemingly minor distinction, however I think it speaks to the underlying narrative that many people clutch on to around this time of year. “I can’t stand all the consumerism. That’s not the ‘reason for the season’!”. “I’m so tired of having to go to parties I don’t want to go to. Shopping, wrapping and sending cards…!”. The list of complaints and grievances go on and on. I believe much of the irritation and negativity is strongly influenced by actual and perceived stress and a general sense of overwhelm. It’s understandable. But, more importantly, it’s modifiable.
To start things off, I’m going to share two simple techniques that can ease psychological and physiological tension without breaking the bank. In fact, they’re both free.
My number one go-to stress reliever is a very basic form of breathing that takes less than a minute to practice. I first learned about this gem from Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s an exercise called 4-7-8 breathing. It works like this: You sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Start by taking a deep breath through your nose and exhaling fully through your mouth. Next, touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth. While gently holding your tongue in this position, breath in through your nose for a count of 4. Then, hold your breath for a count of 7. Finally, exhale through pursed lips (as if you’re whistling) for a count of 8. Repeat this process for 4 repetitions. This is considered one set. Dr. Weil recommends practicing this technique at least twice-daily, but you can do it more often if desired or needed.
Bonus Tips: If you require a little help easing into the 4-7-8 breathing, you can add several drops of lavender oil onto a tissue. Inhale the aroma using deep breaths until you feel calm and ready to begin the breathing exercise. Also, slowly ease back into reality after you complete the 4-7-8 approach. Allow your eyes to open slowly and sit peacefully for a few moments before you get up and resume your daily activities.
The second freebie I want you to keep in your mental health tool box is known as the Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT. The process involves tapping certain meridians (aka acupressure/acupuncture points) while focusing on and stating affirmations and issues you want to improve or overcome. This may seem rather “woo-woo” to some, but a growing body of scientific studies report that EFT and related mind-body exercises can help reduce anger, anxiety, depression and even food cravings. Below, I’ll link to a brief video tutorial that identifies the location of the relevant affirmations, meridians and how you can successfully apply the tapping procedure.
Another mind-body approach that is helpful to keep in mind is art therapy (AT). To be clear, you don’t need to be artistically gifted or inclined to benefit from AT. All you need to do is find a local or online class and style of art that is pleasing to you – drawing, painting, poetry, sculpting, wood work and so on. Recent studies in highly-respected journals such as PLoS One reveal that AT benefits the body and mind by improving heart rate variability and various metrics of psychological health including emotional control, purpose of life and self-acceptance.
The final option I’d like you to consider is lavender oil. I know what you’re probably thinking. Didn’t you already mention lavender oil?! Yes, I did recommend lavender oil … aromatherapy. But, what many people don’t know is that there is a specially-formulated, oral lavender oil that is sold in the US as a dietary supplement called Silexan. A meta-analysis from earlier this month reports that Silexan is comparable or more effective than some anxiolytic medications (lorazepam and paroxetine), but with a lower risk of adverse reactions. The standard dosage is between 80mg – 160mg or 1-2 tiny soft gels. The higher dosage appears to be more effective in relieving anxiety as assessed by changes in the study volunteers’ Hamilton Anxiety Scale.
In closing, I wish you and yours a very happy, healthy holiday season and all the best in 2020. I hope some of the resources I’ve presented today will give you a leg-up on the many blessings and inevitable challenges that life will certainly bring during the holidays and beyond.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Video – Dr. Andrew Weil 4-7-8 Breathing Guide (link)
Study 1 – Effects of Deep Breathing in Patients with Bipolar Disorder … (link)
Study 2 – Online Delivery of Emotional Freedom Techniques for Food Cravings … (link)
Study 3 – Effect of the Emotional Freedom Techniques on Anger Symptoms … (link)
Video – EFT aka Tapping Video Tutorial … (link)
Image – Visual Guide to Meridian Tapping Point … (link)
Study 4 – Anxiety Reduction Through Art Therapy in Women. Exploring Stress … (link)
Study 5 – Mental Health Recovery Through “Art Therapy” … (link)
Study 6 – Efficacy and Safety of Lavender Essential Oil (Silexan) capsules … (link)
The Effects of Silexan vs Conventional Medications
Source: Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 2;9(1):18042. (link)
Tags: Aromatherapy, Breathing, Lavender, Stress
Posted in Alternative Therapies, General Health, Mental Health