The holidays can be a stressful time, but taking a break for self-care can make it easier to get through the hustle and bustle of the season.
Michael Breus, also known as the "Sleep Doctor," stopped by TODAY to explain a few key tactics that can get you through the holiday season. Whether it's avoiding negative energy brought on by "emotional vampires" or making healthy choices to help you get enough sleep, he had advice for anyone who's feeling a little stressed out by the season.
Stay away from "emotional vampires"
Breus defined "emotional vampires" as the kind of people who drain your energy and make it hard to take time for yourself.
"Is there a person in your life who every time you deal with them, they're negative, you feel like they're sucking the life out of you, or they've always got a complaint, something along those lines?" Breus asked. "Those types of people really zap your energy."
Breus said that you shouldn't ignore someone who is struggling or feeling negative about their life, especially during the holiday season when depression and other struggles may surface, but it is important to know how they affect you and consider setting boundaries.
"I'm not saying don't pay attention to these people, but be aware that they could be pulling all that positive energy out of you," Breus said.
To try to reclaim your sense of positive energy, Breus recommends doing things you enjoy, like listening to your favorite music.
Lower your heart rate to get enough sleep
Another important way to keep your stress levels in check is making sure you're taking care of your body and getting enough sleep each night. If you're having a hard time staying asleep, Breus recommends giving the 4-7-8 breathing method a try.
The method might sound complicated, but the technique, developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, is surprisingly simple: Breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and then breathe out for eight counts.
Breus said the different breathing times are what make the technique so effective.
"You get a nice deep breath in, and it turns out that carbon dioxide (which we breathe out) weighs more than oxygen, so when you breathe out, you push that excess carbon dioxide out," Breus explained. "When you slowly exhale, exhale, exhale for eight seconds, you dump all that carbon dioxide out, you get the fresh oxygen in, which lowers your heart rate so it doesn't have to work as hard."
Since having a heart rate below 60 beats per minute helps you enter a state of unconsciousness, anything you can do to lower that rate will help you sleep.
"We have to lower that level of heart rate to get you to bed," Breus said.
Keep an eye out for added sugar
Eating too much sugar, especially shortly before bedtime, can also keep you tossing and turning long into the night, Breus said. During the holidays, there are plenty of opportunities to snack on sweets, but try to avoid them.
"Remember, sugar causes an insulin spike," Breus explained. "It's not great to have before bed. It will certainly give you a hard time."
You can still indulge in all your favorite holiday treats, Breus said, just be mindful about it.
"Remember, eat slowly. You don't have to have every single bite of every single thing," he said.
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, make sure you balance the liquor out by drinking water.
"Stay hydrated; I can't say this enough," Breus said. "For every alcoholic beverage you have, you should drink one glass of water for sure."