De-Stressing The Holidays

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Post-holiday season, usually around mid-January, I have patients coming into my clinic showing signs of extreme fatigue and exhaustion.  They sigh, “The holidays just wiped me out and I have no energy left”.  Their immune systems are weak, they have gained a few extra pounds and barely have enough stamina to put the holiday decorations away.  Sound familiar? Avoid a holiday melt-down this year by following these simple pro-active suggestions.

  1. Stay away from refined sugar. From grandma’s baked goods to the office Christmas party spread, refined sugar is sprinkled all over the holiday season. Candy canes, shortbread cookies, gingerbread houses- not surprisingly most of us increase our sugar intake during this time. Excessive sugar consumption can overwhelm our liver, causing it to convert sugar into fat and increasing ones risk for diabetes, heart diseases and some cancers. Remember one teaspoon of sugar is 4g and our daily intake is 24-36g/day. A medium hot chocolate with marshmallows has 30 g of sugar… just saying.
  2. Stay active. Integrate physical activities as part of the holiday festivities this year. Make it a whole family affair by bundling up and going out for nature walks, cross country skiing, skating or sledding. Don’t let the snow and cold keep you inside, just 30 minutes of activity can have a multitude of health benefits.
  3. Vitamin D. Fatigue, restless sleep, lowered immunity and poor concentration have all been linked to lower vitamin D levels. During the dark winter months our vitamin D levels can decrease, just in conjunction with the holidays.  Make sure you are keeping your levels in a healthy range by taking 2000-3000 IU a day.
  4. Instead of giving presents, be PRESENT. We can fantasize about what we want this “perfect” season to be. Building up this ideal “holiday picture” from the beautiful tree, gourmet dinner, roaring fire- we set up unrealistic expectations that can be impossible to meet. Exerting all of our energy trying to reach unattainable goals leaves us feeling disappointed and tired, with little energy left for our families. Instead focus on spending times with those you love and leave picture perfect holidays to hallmark.
  5. Mighty stress busting plants- adaptogens: A phenomenal class of herbs that have been shown to modulate stress, reduce cortisol (stress hormone) and improve energy levels. Since we all interact differently to stress, finding the right adaptogen that works for you is important. Some of my favorites are Rhodiola, Ashwaganda, Ginsengs and Astragalus. Always check with your health care provider before trying new botanical medicines.

The most precious gift you can give this season is your time.  Worry less about material things, holiday menus and the perfect light display- joy is found in those we care about and the moments we spend with them. Happy Holidays!

This article was original printed in Nourish magazine by Dr. Angela Hunt ND.