Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Updated June 6, 2020
The holidays are full of delicious food, great company, gift giving and cozy nights in front of the fireplace. But for what's considered the most wonderful time of the year; there's a familiar feeling leading up to the celebrations that interferes with health and wellness: holiday stress!
For the month of December, it seems that no matter where you go you can't find a parking spot or walk past the massive crowds. The grocery store lines are miles long, and your spare time goes to preparing for your in-laws' arrival. To top it off, the tasks you must complete by December 24th are written on a piece of paper longer than Santa's Naughty or Nice' list.
If anxiety is setting in as you wonder how you'll survive holidays this year, stress not. Here are our best tips for reducing holiday stress so you can ring in the new year with excellent health and soak up the joy of the holiday season.
1. Increase The Magnesium In Your Diet
In order for your body to efficiently cope with any form of stress, you must have certain nutrients in your diet, such as magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that works with calcium to calm and relax your body.
When under periods of increased stress, I recommend increasing the amount of magnesium in your diet through fresh fruits and veggies such as leafy greens, avocado, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and even 80% or higher organic dark chocolate. A magnesium supplement can be a therapeutic addition to your diet in times of stress.
Some easy ways to include more magnesium in your diet when you're busy is to:
- Make homemade trail mix as a snack on the go (perfect for running holiday errands) - add a few tablespoons of hemp hearts to a green smoothie with spinach
-Have a fifteen minute bubble bath with Epsom salt three times a week. The magnesium in the Epsom salt absorbs instantly through your skin to provide a quick sense of calm.
By consciously adding more magnesium to your diet, you'll also be promoting your long term well-being.
When you're stuck in the middle of traffic or find yourself missing the ingredients for your signature stuffing recipe, it can overwhelm you and change your mood in an instant.
But don't allow panic to set in; that will only worsen the circumstance. Instead, take a few deep breaths to signal relaxation to your body. You'll be surprised at how effective a few conscious deep breaths can be for reducing stress.
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3. Don't Skip Meals - Especially Breakfast
One of the worst things you can do to your body while stressed is to skip meals. It's important to eat the foods that fuel you with antioxidant vitamins and minerals to increase your energy levels and provide your body with nutrients that act as immune system boosters.
Since your body receives the nutrition it needs to handle stress through your diet, this is a step you can't skip. Replacing nutrient dense foods with processed, take-out or boxed foods to save time will only worsen your health and your ability to handle stress throughout the holidays.
When you are short on time, here are a few easy and quick shortcuts for making nutrient dense meals:
- Blend a green smoothie before you go to bed. Keep it in your blender overnight and place it in the fridge. In the morning, simply re-blend and drink.
- Quinoa makes an excellent protein rich breakfast, essential for stabilizing your blood sugar levels. You can make a big batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week while you're wrapping gifts or getting the house holiday ready.
- Chia seeds are one of the world's best superfoods, and chia pudding is another great alternative that only takes 30 seconds to make before letting it set in the fridge overnight.
To make chia seed pudding: combine ¼ cup chia seeds and 1½ cups of nut milk of your choice. Stir and let sit in the fridge overnight. Top with your favorite fruit in the morning and add a touch of vanilla extract for extra flavor.
4. Write Down Ten Things You Love Each Morning
How you start your morning can make all the difference in how you respond to stress throughout the day. Getting up five minutes early to write down ten things you love each morning will promote a happier mood and raise your positive vibrations so you can become a magnet for favorable situations throughout the day.
5. Listen to a Guided Meditation Before Bed
To tackle emotional and mental stress, try putting on a ten minute guided meditation before going to bed. Meditation will promote more restful sleep, the deep breathing will signal to your body that it's time to relax.
There are all kinds of meditations you can listen to for free on YouTube, and even downloadable mobile apps.
6. Essential Oils
If you feel low on energy and overwhelmed, essential oils can work quickly and efficiently to help perk you up. Although the exact mechanism of action is currently unclear, it's been suggested that upon smelling essential oils, parts of the brain are triggered to related to positive emotions and memories. Essential oils can improve stress and relaxation or energy levels through scents such as lavender and citrus. Certain blends of essential oils have been used consistently for calming the nervous system in alternative medicine practices.
To use essential oils at home, add a few drops to an oil burner, or place a few drops of essential oils on your pillows or in your Epsom salt bath to promote stress relief.
Note: If you are pregnant or have children in your home, some essential oils may not be safe to use. Consult with your doctor prior to use.
7. Exercise Despite How Busy You Are
When the holidays hit, you may feel like there's barely time. These times of stress and chaos are exactly when we need exercise the most. If you can schedule in your usual workouts just as you would an important business meeting, you'll be doing your body a huge favor. Exercise releases endorphins, naturally reduces stress and gives you energy.
If you're pressed for time, try taking a relaxing evening restorative yoga class, take the stairs instead of the elevator and park further away from the mall when doing your shopping. I recommend doing a few extra laps around the mall at an increased pace too!
8. Make Sleep a Priority
With so many activities and tasks to do during the holidays, you may find yourself sleeping a few hours less. Just like exercise, eight hours of sleep is one part of your lifestyle that you can't afford to compromise during the holiday season.
Receiving less than eight hours of restful sleep each night can cause elevated stress hormones in your blood, impair your concentration and memory (who did you get for Secret Santa again!?) and promote cravings for sugar, dependency on caffeine and slow your metabolism.
Eight hours of sleep is an essential element of your routine that will allow you to be clear headed, productive and handle the tasks in your day with ease.
9. Support Your Adrenal Glands With An Adaptogenic Herb
An adaptogen is one of the best supplements for energy and well-being. This class of herbs may help to support your adrenal glands and your stress response.
How Stress Wears You Out
As you become stressed, your adrenal glands release specific hormones to help your body respond. You may be familiar with the stress hormone adrenaline and can probably think back to a situation where you've experienced an "adrenaline rush.” It was likely a situation with a perceived sense of danger, such as skydiving or getting into an argument.
Irrespective of the situation, your body will release the appropriate stress hormones for your survival. Your pupils will dilate, and you'll experience a sudden rush of energy and increased strength. This survival mechanism was imperative to our existence (and evolution) in the caveman days. Today, our versions of stressful situations have evolved but our bodies can't tell the difference between being late to our daughter's Christmas play or running from a hungry saber toothed tiger.
In the caveman days, our stress response wasn't triggered every single day; it was used sparingly. But today, we seem to be constantly stressed out, which means our adrenals are constantly responding to the stress by releasing hormones and working overtime. Like anything that's used repeatedly, your body can feel worn out and lead you to a point of exhaustion.
How an Adaptogen Can Support Stress Response
Adaptogenic herbs can help your body cope and adapt to stress by providing you with a natural, slow releasing energy without the crash (unlike caffeine and sugar), perfect for making it through the holidays with plenty of energy to spare.
Our favorite adaptogen is Sun Eleuthero, also known as eleutherococcus senticosus. As one of the most studied herbs in natural medicine, eleuthero has been recognized as a superior herb for supporting the body's stress response and promoting mental focus during intense periods of stress. Adaptogenic herbs work efficiently and subtly, so taking it on a regular basis is key for best results. Think of an adaptogen as stress relief 'insurance policy' that's perfect for the holidays and can continue through day-to-day life.
Author: Brandi Black, RHN