Yoga Could Be Your Key to Relieving Holiday Stress
Feeling frazzled this holiday season? With so much to do in just a few weeks, it's only natural to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Yoga offers an effective way to calm your mind and feel more in control during the busy holiday season.
The Stress Relief Benefits of Yoga
A memorable holiday season doesn't happen without someone to coordinate all the details. If you're that someone, you may not be feeling quite so merry, thanks to your lengthy to-do list.
Holiday-related stress is a common problem in the U.S. In fact, 60 percent of Americans surveyed by Sesame in 2021 felt that the holidays negatively affected their mental health. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed even wished that the holidays could be canceled due to increased stress.
If you need a little help relaxing during the holiday season, yoga can help. When you practice yoga, you'll notice that:
- Your Stress Level Drops. Stress activates your body's fight-or-flight response and increases the production of cortisol, a key stress hormone. When cortisol remains high, it's difficult to relax. Yoga lowers your cortisol level naturally, decreasing stressful feelings. The effect has been explored in several research studies, including a study published in the International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences that examined the effects of yoga on cortisol levels in medical students. Students who practiced yoga regularly saw a significant decrease in morning cortisol levels compared to those in a control group.
- Your Mood Improves. As you move from pose to pose, your body releases serotonin and endorphins, two hormones that offer mood-enhancing benefits. These hormones help you feel calm, happy, and centered. Endorphins also act as natural painkillers and can be helpful if you're experiencing stress-related headaches and muscle pain.
- You Stop Obsessing. Can't stop thinking about all the things you still need to do this holiday season? Meditation, an essential aspect of your yoga practice, helps you let go of intrusive thoughts that raise your stress level. Through meditation, you'll learn to clear your mind and focus only on the present. With practice, you'll be able to dismiss intrusive thoughts and remain calm and in control. Regular meditation may also help you react more calmly to stressful situations.
- Physical Symptoms Decrease. Stress doesn't just affect your mental health but causes a variety of unpleasant physical symptoms, including headaches, upset stomach, heartburn, diarrhea, and high blood pressure. Yoga poses stretch tight muscles, easing pain and improving blood flow to tense muscles. In addition to decreasing cortisol and increasing serotonin and endorphin production, yoga also reduces your heart rate and blood pressure. In the long term, yoga could help you lower your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases and conditions.
- Sleep Improves. Headaches, muscle pain, and intrusive thoughts make sleeping difficult when you're stressed. Unfortunately, sleep problems can make stress even worse. Luckily, yoga can help you get a better night's sleep. Almost 60% of people who practiced yoga noticed an improvement in sleep in a National Health Statistics Report. Eighty-six percent also reported less stress as a result of yoga sessions.
Thanks to yoga, stress doesn't have to ruin your holidays. Why not give yourself an early holiday gift and enroll in one of our yoga classes?
Sesame: Holiday 2021 Stress Report: Increase in Anxiety, Depression & COVID-Related Stress, 11/2021
International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: Effects of Yoga and Meditation on Serum Cortisol Level in First-Year Medical Students, 4/25/2018
CDC: National Health Statistics Reports: Wellness-Related Use of Complementary Health Approaches Among Adults: United States, 2012, 11/4/2015
Mayo Clinic: Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity, 12/29/2020
American Heart Association: Lower Stress: How Does Stress Affect the Body?, 10/20/21