Manage Your Stress During the Holiday Season, a Health Focused Piece That Strikes a Sustainable Cord

Manage Your Stress During the Holiday Season, a Health Focused Piece That Strikes a Sustainable Cord

Family Holiday

No matter what you celebrate, holiday stress can lead to digestive woes, trouble sleeping, and a feeling that you’re skating out of control. Let’s fill your sack with ways you can manage holiday stress! Here are tips from scientists (and the biggest expert of the season) on how to manage holiday stress.

 

Why are the holidays so stressful?

Despite your best intentions, you may set unrealistic expectations upon our time and finances, while ignoring our body’s needs for sleep, exercise, and good nutrition. This puts many of your mental skills on overdrive, such as the ability to switch focus, manage time, organize, remember, and pay attention to detail. No wonder holiday stress can leave you feeling overwhelmed and sleepless! Check out these 7 ways to sustainably manage holiday stress, and let’s make this a jolly time of year.

 

1. Unwrap Holiday Stress

When you get wrapped up in high expectations about gifts and time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Get wrapped up in gratitude, instead! Start by setting realistic expectations. Lift some of the pressure you set upon yourself about the holidays. Avoid taking on everything at once. Identify what are the most important tasks or moments to you, and then move one step at a time to accomplish them.

 

2. Read how the Grinch Stole Your Christmas

By recognizing how you deal with stress, you can be better prepared to manage it. Do you engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as eating or drinking, when you’re stressed? Do you lose patience with your children or partner when you feel overwhelmed? Understanding how you respond to stressful situations you can better manage holiday stress. Take a deep breath – it can help. As can practicing mindfulness - the act of being calm, focused and present in that moment. Perhaps wrap your fingers around a warm, relaxing mug of tea. Scientists are looking into this complex drink’s ability to help return stress levels back to normal. A mug of tea contains lots of natural ingredients, such as catechins, polyphenols, flavonoids and amino acids, which beneficially affect neurotransmitters in the brain. It may be beneficial to sip sustainable teas since recovery after acute stress (such as the holidays) has been associated with a greater risk of coronary heart disease.

 

3. Get off the Naughty List

Have you been naughty? If you have been neglecting your body, it’s less able to manage holiday stress. Sleep is usually the first to be neglected in times of stress. It’s worth making sleep a priority, as research shows, a lack of sleep lowers your productivity, as well as your ability to cope with stress. Exercise also gets missed when stressful schedules become hectic. Yet, a lack of exercise can exacerbate the problem. Being physically active increases your body’s resilience to stress. Plus, getting your heart rate up, with a little activity like ice skating or snowshoeing, has been proven by scientists to promote self-esteem and feelings of value. And, don’t forget about self-care – take a few moments to soak in a bathtub, drop some lavender in the diffuser, or take a stroll amongst some trees.

 

4. Feel Good in Green

When the weather outside is frightful, you probably either hide by the fire as it’s so delightful or bundle up in toques and scarfs. Both limit your exposure to sunlight. Sunlight is used by the body to make vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a role in your body’s immunity. As 32% of Canadians have insufficient vitamin D levels in their blood, a vitamin D supplement may be helpful during these dark days of winter.

 

In some people, the lack of daylight can cause symptoms known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Have you noticed a negative shift in your mood? Get outside!  Research has shown being out in green spaces is associated with better mental health. From skating to cross country skiing, caroling or hiking in the woods, there are many great outdoor activities to do in the winter.

 

5. Let the Holiday Candles Burn

Holiday stress can exacerbate sleep issues, leaving you feeling like your burning your candles at both ends. Let the candles on the menorah or kinara be the ones burning bright, and use these tips to help you get some sleep. When you are stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. Additional cortisol can confuse the body’s natural biological clock that tells it when it is time to sleep. Proper exercise, diet, and sleep can help maintain stable cortisol levels in your body. Plus, there are sustainable natural products, from sleep masks to melatonin, that can help improve your slumber. Melatonin, in particular, is known to help improve total sleep time as well as the time it takes to fall asleep.

 

6. Unwrap Natural Holiday Stress Solutions

If your holidays are pouring on the stress with the gravy, you may want to enlist the help of adaptogens. Adaptogens are natural medicines that help the body better handle stress. Adaptogens support the brain, hormones, immune system, and adrenal glands which are on overdrive in times of stress. Examples of adaptogens include Panax ginseng and ashwagandha. Both of these have been used in Herbal Medicine to help increase energy and resistance to stress. Ashwagandha has also been traditionally used as a sleep aid in Ayurvedic medicine.

 

Tis’ the time of year that many people feel stressed. Stress can fatigue the adrenal glands. This can cause imbalances in the body, such as higher blood sugar levels, lower immunity, and greater inflammation. There are many sustainably-sourced, adaptogenic products that support the adrenal glands by protecting them from damage, improving their energy supply and ability to secrete hormones.

 

7. Making a List. Checking it Twice.

The big man in the red suit is the biggest expert on managing big to-do lists. His secret is to make a list and check it twice. Putting thoughts to paper helps ease your mind. Make a holiday to-do list – it’ll help you from forgetting to pick up a gift or important ingredient. Lists also help you stay focused. Be sure to fill your list with items that are good for the planet – buying sustainable holiday gifts is a great way to lift your spirits.

 

8. Indulge a Little

The holidays are a marathon of events with decadent food. Go on! Indulge a little in a sweet treat. Enjoy a small amount of your favourite treats – and, then stop. You’ll thank yourself later when your digestive system is still happy, your mental clarity is present, and that good-food energy keeps you going. If you do happen to overindulge, you may find help in digestive enzymes which can aid with the digestion of food, and probiotic supplements that support intestinal health.

 

Ho! Ho! Hold the stress this holiday season with these tips and tricks. Stop to take a deep breath. Choose the most important things. Make a list. Get outside. Eat good food. Sip responsibly sourced tea. Use natural products, like vitamin D, probiotics, or adaptogens where needed. And, set an alarm to remind you to go to bed. May your holidays be happy and bright!

 

Eggnog 

REFERENCES

 

Poor sleep challenging the health of a nation. Neurodiagn J. 2012 Sep; 52(3): 233-49.

Physical activity and depression: towards understanding the antidepressant mechanisms of physical activity. Neurosci Biobeh Rev 2019;107:525-539.

Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med 2011 Aug; 59(6):881-886.

Vitamin D blood levels of Canadians, Statistics Canada, 2015.

Natural outdoor environments and mental and physical health: relationships and mechanisms. Environ Int 2015 Apr;77:35-41.

The effects of green tea amino acid L-theanine consumption on the ability to manage stress and anxiety levels: a systematic review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2019 Nov 22.

Ashwagandha monograph, Health Canada.

Melatonin monograph, Health Canada.

Panax ginseng monograph, Health Canada.

Probiotics monograph, Health Canada.

Digestive enzymes monograph, Health Canada.

A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chin Med 2018; 13:57.



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