Stress Management Around the Holidays

The Holiday season is upon us! This time is a fast paced and exciting, however it can be easy to become swept up in the whirlwind of festivities, ultimately leaving you feeling run down and burnt out by the end of it.

This is a guest contribution from Dr Kira Lewis. Please see the medical disclaimer at the bottom. This post is entirely informational and consults with your health care provider.  

The following ideas are for the busy Mamas and Papas out there to implement in your day-to-day life to help you re-charge and get the most out of your holiday season!

Exercise

Exercise is, unfortunately, the first thing to get pushed to the wayside when our lives become hectic and busy. Exercise is a known natural stress relief. It is an excellent outlet for that stressful-nervous energy that can build when we are busy living that go-go-go lifestyle. Exercise can also be a source of fun and joy we can incorporate into our day. And I’m not saying we all need to be running marathons or lifting heavy weights (those high intensity activities can actually negatively impact your health and stress levels if your mind and body aren’t in a place to be participating in those sports) but 30 minutes a day of something that gets your heart rate up and that you enjoy doing will do wonders at reducing stress! I recommend to not let your exercise routine get pushed to the side this holiday season, or at least get moving and do an activity that is fun for you at least 3x/week.

Slow down

While being swept up in the whirlwind of holiday festivities, it is important to recognize when you’re stretching yourself too thin and pump the breaks. We live in the day and age where “super moms & super dads” are glorified on social media and we don’t see the behind the scenes of them being totally burnt out and at the end of their fuse too. I want to remind you that you don’t have to do it all, it is okay to say “no, sorry I can’t bake those cookies for that event” or “no, I can’t make it to this event, I need an evening to myself drinking tea and reading my favorite book”.

One thing I like to recommend to help us busy folk who like to do it all slow down is a meditation app. These guided meditations are a great way to become acquainted with the practice of meditation and try it out on your own terms. You can start with as little as 5 minutes a day, and something as seemingly short as 5 minutes is enough time to slow down and reflect, restore, and gain perspective on your priorities moving forward with your day.

Some apps I’d recommend that you can try out for free are: Headspace or Calm

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Eating Habits

Maintaining healthy eating habits around the holiday season is tough with all the wonderful baked goods and treats always within an arm’s reach. I want to take this moment to give you the “Cole’s notes”on the biochemistry of stress and what this means for your holiday snacking:

  • Our body has a couple of major hormones that help us regulate stress: Epinephrine /norepinephrine and cortisol
  • Epinephrine/norepinephrine is what is produced in our “fight or flight response” or when you feel that “adrenaline rush” in high-intensity situations
  • Cortisol is produced in response to more “low grade” stress. It helps to suppress our immune system so we don’t get sick in times of stress (not a good thing, it means when we finally do get sick, we get REALLY sick), It shifts our metabolism to accommodate increased energy requirements in times of stress, and it increases our appetite.
  • When we’re stressed, cortisol increases which will increase our blood sugar. Our insulin increases in response to the elevated blood sugar and with an increase in insulin in our system, we will ultimately become hypoglycemic (low blood sugar).

What I’m trying to get at here is, with our stress increased around the holiday season, the cortisol we are producing because of the stress is inherently putting us on a blood sugar roller-coaster (hello short tempered, hangry, lightheaded parent that is NOT in holiday spirits). So when we reach for that delicious holiday baking packed full of sweetness, we are adding fuel to the fire that is our unstable blood sugar.

How do we avoid this blood sugar rollercoaster? 1. Work on ways to reduce and manage holiday stress (as discussed in points 1, 2 & 4 in this post!) to keep the cortisol levels at bay and 2. I’m not going to tell you to not eat those holiday treats, but keep in mind: everything in moderation. It also helps if the other foods you are choosing to put in your body throughout the day are full of healthy fats, protein and antioxidants because those foods will help stabilize blood sugar, so adding a delicious treat for desert on top of those good foods isn’t going to rock the blood sugar boat.

Intentions

Lastly, I wanted to talk about setting holiday intentions. As we know, the holiday season is quite chaotic, and it seems we blink once and December is over! Throughout the holiday parties, cooking, shopping and cleaning we can get so caught up in our to-do lists that we lose sight of WHY we are doing all this. Take a moment before life gets too busy to WRITE DOWN your WHY. That’s the funny thing about goals, we can think about them all we like, but as soon as we write them down they become more real and we remember them better. I find by setting intentions or goals, it helps me prioritize my time, ensure I don’t get too caught up in the chaos and miss the things I value, and helps me slow down and appreciate all the special moments the holiday season brings!

Stress Management Around the Holidays

At the root of the four points, I’ve discussed today is a central theme of mindfulness. That just means listening to your body and your needs, recognizing when you are fatigued or starting to burn out and making a shift so you don’t stay on the stressed and overwhelmed trajectory you are currently on. By maintaining a fun and enjoyable exercise routine, slowing down, nourishing your body with healthy foods (and the occasional treat!) and setting your holiday intentions, you can make the most of your holiday season and enjoy the precious time spent with family and friends!

 

In Health,

Dr. Kira Lewis, N.D.

Dr. Kira Lewis is a naturopath doctor in Prince George, BC. To learn more about her practice check her out website, and find her on Instagram for inspriation for a healthy and active lifestyle.

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