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FIGHT OR FLIGHT: Biological stress response releases stress hormones adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, which surge through your veins, increasing your heart rate. Blood flow to your skin decreases to lower the chance of blood loss in a "fight" and increases to major muscle groups so you can react in a "flight" situation. Perhaps approaching winter and holiday preparations don't resemble a life-or-death situation, but your body senses a threat nevertheless. Now is the time to shore up your reserves in easy-to-accomplish ways.

MOVEMENT: A thoughtful pace is symbolic of taking life one step at a time. A rhythmic flow of your leg muscles and the free swing of your arms create movement for your body and your body tissue fluids. The forward movement of your body gliding through soft air can create an instant mental vacation. Add deep rhythmic breathing to your awareness. Your body responds by surging highly oxygenated blood throughout, creating clear thoughts, happier feelings and higher energy to accomplish your tasks. Water and movement become one, gently encouraging the muscles to release their tension. This is your initial step in keeping stress at a lower level.

HEAT: The sauna experience has cleansed and relaxed Europeans for centuries. Regular sauna-goers love the skin benefits. There is recent scientific proof that regular sauna use leads to a more stable epidermal barrier function, an increase in stratum corneum hydration and faster recovery of water loss and skin pH, according to a recent study. Researchers at the University of Jena in Germany say the heart and skin benefits are akin to exercising - the more frequently you do it, the greater the benefits. Adding a cold shower or cold plunge to the experience creates increased internal body circulation. Resultant relaxation and stimulation creates stress reduction, better skin health and a brighter outlook for the holidays.

FLOWING WATER: Visualizing a powerful waterfall evokes strong feelings of exhilaration and energy. Yet there is a resultant sense of release and relaxation. There are ways to recreate those feelings, even though you probably don't have a grand neighborhood waterfall. Falling water and ocean waves create negative (good) ions, which offset positive (bad) ions created from friction and stress. Check out your own shower. A nice hot shower is a wonderful opportunity to get clean, sing your heart out and absorb the negative ions to give your mood a pick-me-up. Again, end in cold to create a little free energy for shopping.

Consider purchasing a flowing fountain for your home and office. They come in all sizes, from large to desktop. Keeping a fountain flowing hydrates the air, creates a soothing sound and sets a mellow mood. A wishing fountain can be entertaining for the family, creating game ideas for active minds.

As a pampering gift idea, a Vichy shower treatment utilizes the curative properties from nature to encourage your body and skin to restore its own vitality. The Vichy is a stimulating rain shower massage delivered by six shower heads in a surrounding environment filled with warm steam. After a brief sauna experience, the skin is nourished and cleansed by minerals, enzymes, and herbs, followed by nourishing oils and lotions to rehydrate and finish.

SOOTHING ENVIRONMENT: Look around your home and office. Make some changes to set the stage for relaxation, harmony and peace. Chimes and running water, indirect lighting, calming colors, soft music and a lavender fragrance candle, combined with speaking calmly to those around you, help create a soothing stage. A wonderful cup of hot herbal tea made with lemon balm or a relaxing blend goes a long way to soothe the weary mind.

EVALUATE YOUR INTENTIONS: Holidays seem stressful for various reasons. Some people experience excitement, some sadness, some disappointment and some a combination of emotions. Step back, take a deep breath, and observe yourself. As insights occur, jot each one on a slip of paper. When you are ready to rid yourself of these burdens, create a safe place and toss the papers in a bowl of fire. Bid farewell to your burdens. Make this your best holiday season yet.

Linda M. Simpson graduated with a B.S. in business from Limestone College, Gaffney, S.C., and graduated with an N.D. from National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Ore. She is the spa director at Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic.

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