By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
When you think of health insurance companies, what comes to mind first about them? (And, no, this is not a commercial!) Is it that your health insurance company is a great source of healthful tips on managing stress, improving your health and saving you money on health care costs? Well, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois does more than just process insurance claims. They provide some really helpful info about your health! The Blue Cross website provides members with tips to beat the holiday blues here.
Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And note that I am not paid by BCBS nor do I have any stock in the company. But I do think their website is a great service, even if you are not a member!
Among the helpful healthful tips: keep your holiday expectations realistic. Not low, but realistic. What this means varies from person to person. During this holiday season, there are a lot of invitations to events, gifts to buy, end of year financial obligations to handle. And for those with children in homes that celebrate Christmas, presents to buy, hide and wrap. It’s a time of family and friend visits and parties. But we still all have to go to work, school or take care of children or elderly loved ones. And adding high expectations (that everything be perfect, that our loved ones will love every gift we get them, that we can work, shop, cook and still maintain our health despite many additional demands without compromising anything) adds significant stress to our lives.
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of relaxation, either by getting a relaxing massage, taking time out to sit in a hot bath, going to the gym to work off some stress, meditation, resting, stopping and taking a walk in the woods or by the lake (bundle up though!). Your heart, your pancreas, your blood pressure will all benefit as you remove yourself from the face pace of the holiday shopping frenzy and let your body rest and recharge.
Here are some of my tips on maintaining your health and not overdoing during the holiday season:
• When someone asks you to take on one more event or obligation, say “let me think about it.” Then take the time to really think if you have time and energy to take this on, if the event is more important than other obligations you may have, and then give your denial or approval.
• Make a list of all the extra holiday related things you need to do in the next month. Then check your list and decide if anything can go or be done in an easier way. For example, you can shop in a store or you can save time and shop via the internet. I hate to beat the death knoll for big box stores and retail shopping, but when people are pressed for time, shopping online saves the hassle of fighting through long lines and heavy traffic and lets you check an item off your to do list without leaving your computer.
• Consider giving less gifts and giving more of yourself. Not to contradict myself, but instead of rushing around to save a few bucks on the latest electronic gift or trendy item that will likely be unused and relegated to the closet soon after unwrapping, consider giving gift certificates or coupons either for actual professional services (spa, dinner, movie passes) to be enjoyed along with you or make home made certificates for future events with you. A dinner, a back rub, a vacation, a plan for a hike, a walk, an afternoon in any of the fabulous museums in Chicago (which have free days for the budget conscious). Whatever you and your family and friends like to do together when the holidays are over and you all have more free time to spend with one another.
• Commit to spending at least 10 minutes a day laying down, either on a bed, on the floor or on a mat. All you need to do is be comfortable, focus on your breathing (counting as you breathe in out with a 4-count for inhalation and a 4-count for your exhalation) and let your thoughts come and go without getting to attached to any one thought. (Trust me, those thoughts and to do lists will be there after 10 minutes of rest and relaxation.)
• Commit to spending at least an hour a day unplugged no phone, no television, no game system, no computer. Whether you spend the hour talking in person to loved ones or whether you simply stare out the window and pet your cat, just spend one hour a day not using electronic devises and not responding to the call of a phone, television commercial or email. If the thought of doing this panics you, then you need that hour more than most!
Overall, do less, slow down and ENJOY the time you have with those you love. Then just to prove you are not in such a rush that you forget to be kind, let the guy or gal in front of you in line or on the street. That small act of kindness may just make you feel a little less stressed and a little more in the holiday spirit!
And (shameless plug for self-promotion), feel free to stop by our Working Well Massage chair stations inside the Whole Foods Markets in the Gold Coast (30 W Huron) and Lincoln Park (1550 N Kingsbury) any time from noon to 8pm daily. No appointment needed! Just stop in and in 10 or 15 or 20 minutes we can help you feel less stressed and more relaxed! Click here for our website with more information.
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