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9 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress

By: Brandi Black, RHN

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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. Although we can't exactly help you prepare the turkey or set up fresh linens for the guest room, we can provide our best tips for reducing holiday stress. By prioritizing your natural wellness, you'll increase your energy and ability to relax even while tackling your extravagant to-do list.

Ring in the new year with excellent health and soak up the joy of the holiday season with these nine survival tips to reduce stress this holiday.

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.

Unfortunately, stress has the ability to deplete your calcium and magnesium levels[1], which can leave you more prone to feeling the negative physical and emotional impacts of stress.

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. In addition to plant-based foods, taking a magnesium supplement can be a therapeutic addition to your diet in times of stress.

An easy way 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) and to add a few tablespoons of hemp hearts to a green smoothie with spinach or organic greek yogurt each day.

To increase your magnesium absorption and promote stress relief, you could also have a fifteen minute bubble bath with epsom salts three times a week. The magnesium in the epsom salts 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. Nearly half of the American population is said to be deficient in this crucial stress-relieving mineral[2]

2. Support Your Adrenal Glands With An Adaptogenic Herb

To elaborate further on the nutritional aspects of stress support, you may want to consider taking an adaptogenic herb. An adaptogen is one of the best supplements for energy and adrenal health. This class of herbs effectively helps reduce the negative impact stress has on your adrenal glands by regulating your stress response. Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and control your stress response by releasing hormones such as cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline.

How Stress Wears Out Your Adrenal Glands
As you become stressed, your adrenal glands release specific hormones to help your body respond to a particular situation or circumstance. You may be familiar with the stress hormone adrenaline, and perhaps you're able to think of situations 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 or running as if you were being chased.

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 so that we wouldn't get eaten. Today, our versions of stressful situations have evolved with us 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 adrenal glands eventually become worn out and lead you to a point of exhaustion.

How an Adaptogen Can Reduce The Negative Impact of Stress
Adaptogenic herbs can prevent adrenal burnout by helping your body cope and adapt to stress more efficiently by toughening your body's stress response. Adaptogens also provide you with 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 siberian ginseng. As one of the most studied herbs in natural medicine, eleuthero has been recognized as a superior herb for regulating the body's stress response and promoting clear 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. You can think of an adaptogen as stress relief "insurance” policy that's perfect for the holidays and day-to-day life.

Sun Eleuthero is available in many forms such as tablets, tea and as a natural healthy energy drink. 

3. Don't Skip Meals - Especially Breakfast

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The holidays are a busy time of year when you're more rushed than ever, but one of the worst things you can do to your body while stressed is to skip meals. It's also 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. To replace 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. Instead, you might find yourself feeling irritable, foggy, impatient and exhausted despite getting enough rest.

You may be thinking there's simply not enough time in the day to eat well during the holidays, but there are easy and quick shortcuts for making nutrient dense meals that will prove you wrong:
- If you're pressed for time in the morning, try blending 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. Again, as long as no dairy products are used, it travels without refrigeration well; just bring a spoon!

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 not only promote a happier mood, but also will positively raise your vibration 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. Not only will meditation promote a 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. Some meditations are used for visualization techniques, which may be helpful to envision how smooth and joyful your holidays will be this year!

6. Burn Essential Oils at Home

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[3]. 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, simply add a few drops to an oil burner, or place a few drops of essential oils on your pillows and in your epsom salt bath to promote effective stress relief.

7. Don't Ditch Exercise Despite How Busy You Are

When the holidays hit, you may feel like there's barely time to bite into your organic candy cane, nevermind head to a yoga class or the gym. But 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 naturally reduces stress and gives you energy. Besides, there's something about an intense workout that seems to make the stress instantly melt away (those would be your endorphins releasing)!

If you're pressed for time during the day to exercise, 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!

Keeping up with your exercise regime during the holidays will also promote a restful sleep, support your immune system and help you feel as though you can handle anything the holiday season throws at you, ugly Christmas sweaters and all.

8. Make Sleep a Priority

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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.

Although it may feel like you don't have enough time, 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.


When you're stuck in the middle of traffic getting across town, or find yourself missing the ingredients for your signature stuffing recipe, it can completely 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 in any given moment. Here's to your stress-free and healthy holiday season!

Author: Brandi Black, RHN