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Experts offer advice for de-stressing — especially during the holidays

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Posted: Monday, December 24, 2012 12:03 am

FAIRBANKS — Buy fewer gifts. Spend more time with the people you love. Look for opportunities to help others.

If you want more meaning from the holiday season, do those three things, said Jeff Wall, pastor at Friends Community Church.

“We’re all getting stuff that we don’t need,” Wall said. “I try to encourage people to look beyond the material.

“There is so much reward in the relationships.”

Wall, along with a counselor, a life coach and a massage practitioner, have some suggestions for having less stress and more peace during the holiday season.

According to the American Psychological Association, anyone experiencing stress in life is vulnerable to increased anxiety about the holidays. Stress is a contributing factor to a range of diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, studies show.

Jasmine Nickell is a licensed massage therapist with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She sees an uptick in business this time of year. People are looking for comfort and relief because of cold temperatures and the long lists of holiday responsibilities.

Nickell, who owns Violet Ray Studio in Fairbanks, tells her clients to prioritize. “Weed out the things that really aren’t necessary.”

The massage therapist also suggests that people take the time to be nice to themselves. One example? Take catnaps, or short rest periods, during the day.

“Just 15 minutes to lay down in the quiet,” Nickell said.

Terry Kelly, of New Life Counseling, said people feeling stressed out might want to pause and consider what is bringing on the anxiety.

“This is a time when we want to think about not just peace on earth but peace in our hearts, in our community and in our relationships,” he said.

Kelly suggested that people hungry for more meaning in their lives consider doing more for others. “If you want more of it, give it away,” he said.

Anyone feeling harried while shopping for a last-minute gift, Kelly said, ought to take the person out for coffee instead.

Another suggestion from Kelly? Commit random acts of kindness. For example, give up your place in the post office line to someone having a bad day.

Wall, the pastor, recommended that families spend time during Christmas doing things together that they enjoy.

For some families that could be to attend a church service, he said.

Life coach Terri Babers, who is writing a book about stress, offered several tips for relieving stress.

One tip is to set a timer and take walks around the block periodically throughout the day. Babers, owner of Positive Changes Coaching, said one of her clients is using the technique and is experiencing less stress as a result.

Babers also suggested keeping a journal.

“Even if the person writes one or two sentences a day,” she said. “Journaling is a huge, huge way to relieve stress.”

Babers said people should watch for a climax and then a letdown as the holiday period wanes.

“The blues happen when we have such high expectations,” she said.

Contact freelance writer Amanda Bohman at aknewsgirl@gmail.com.

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