Five Simple Steps to Relax and Recharge in the New Year

Regaining stability after the holiday season.

By Karen Smith on January 7, 2014

You made it through the busy holiday season – the most stressful time of the year, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA reported 69 percent of Americans are stressed due to lack of time and financial resources, and nearly a quarter feel “extreme stress” during the holidays.

“Early January is a perfect time to stop and take a few deep breaths,” says Kathy Flaminio, founder of 1000 Petals, a holistic well-being training and consulting company based in St. Paul, Minn. Flaminio is a life-long yogi and fitness expert who helps adults and children connect the mind, body and heart through daily well-being practices.

“There’s nothing like a busy holiday season to show us that a ‘taking-care-of-others-first’ mindset can exhaust and overwhelm us,” Flaminio says. “It’s really important to remember that you can’t take good care of others unless you take good care of yourself.”

The New Year is the ideal time to replenish your energy and commit to a daily practice that will help manage stress all year long. Flaminio recommends listening to artists like Mantra Girl and MC Yogi as part of your daily practice. “I take my Jawbone JAMBOX speaker everywhere I go,” she says.

Flaminio also shares her “five S’s”: a five-step process you can follow to slow and stop the chain reaction of stress in your body.

  1. STOP: Stop everything you are doing and get connected with your body. Place your feet on the floor or sit in a chair and lengthen your spine. Slow your breathing and take 12 deep breaths to activate the relaxation response. Try using the Mindfulness Bell mobile app, which rings periodically during the day, to remind you take pause and breathe.
  2. SIGH: Sighing is the body's natural way of releasing stress. Take a nice deep breath in and exhale a vocal ahhh. Do this three times in a row.
  3. STRETCH: Move your spine in six directions every day: Front to Back, Side to Side and Twist. The Desk Yoga mobile app provides additional stretches and video tutorials that can be practiced almost anywhere.
  4. SMILE: Smiling triggers scientifically measureable activity in the area of the brain where happiness is registered. Add laughter if you want to release more stress.
  5. SHAKE: Shaking your body is another way of dissipating stress. Try to shake for two to five minutes, then gently stop and close your eyes.

“We all know these fundamental self-care tips: sleep, nourishment, exercise,” Flaminio says. “What I find, especially during really busy times, is that we neglect ourselves first. By practicing the ‘five S’s’, you can relax and reenergize faster and easier, which makes you more positive and productive. The time you take to care for yourself benefits everyone around you.”