Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

With Teresa Richter, N.D. Candidate, this months newsletter discusses tips for managing stress this holiday season.The Holidays can be a very warm and wonderful time of year if our approach is right. If you get caught up in the hustle and bustle, you may lose sight of the joy of the holiday season. Please read these tips and try to integrate as many as possible. The goal is to help you fight off the winter blues and feel relaxed rather than have this time of year be filled with stress and emotional strain. Hope your holiday season is blessed and stress-free!

Eat Well: Good nutrition is an important building block for overall health. The following nutrients are specifically geared toward fending off the seasonal blues.

  • Tryptophan: a precursor to melatonin and serotonin. Foods rich in tryptophan are: cottage cheese, turkey, lamb, fish (tuna and salmon), cashews, avocados and wild game.
  • Methionine: necessary to form the neurotransmitters (chemical brain messengers) serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine and dopamine. Foods that are rich in Methionine are: meat, poultry, dairy, eggs and fish (tuna and salmon).
  • Folic Acid: necessary for regulating mood. Folic acid deficiency has been implicated in contributing to depression. Foods rich in folic acid are: leafy green vegetables, black-eyed peas, citrus fruit and brewer’s yeast.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: helpful for reduction of inflammation and for promoting cardiovascular and nervous system health. Foods rich in these healthy fats are: tuna, salmon and flax seeds.

Also, decrease sugar and other simple carbohydrates. Sugar can promote inflammation and infection. Having an extra serving of organic vegetables instead of the commonplace rolls/muffins can go a long way to helping you feel better.

Allow for Extra Time: when doing everyday errands like going to the bank or the grocery store, give yourself extra time to complete your tasks. Keeping a tight schedule during the holidays will surely lead to disappointment. If you still find yourself in stressful situations, try a small round of the breathing exercises below to help calm your mind and body.

Breathing Exercises: Diaphragmatic breathing can help alleviate headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure, trouble falling asleep, hyperventilation and many other ailments. These breathing exercises are best done lying down, but a modified version can be done while driving or standing. Position #1: 1) Lie on your back 2) keep knees bent 3) place one hand on your chest and the other near your belly button. OR Position #2: breathe sitting/standing upright making sure that your ears, hips and shoulders are aligned. Inhale through your nose- count to four, feel your stomach move out slightly as the lungs fill with air. Pause for one second before exhaling. Gently exhale through your mouth- count to four, feel your stomach move in and relax. If the count of four is too long for you, start with less time and work your way up. (Breathing exercises compliments of Rebecca Rainwater, O.T.)

Sleep: keeping a stable sleep routine can be at the cornerstone of surviving the holiday season. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time everyday. Don’t watch TV or sit at the computer right before bedtime. Make sure your room is dark and don’t sleep with a night light or the TV on. Getting good sleep helps the body to release hormones to assist in creating good mood and will also help the body to rest and recover adequately.

Exercise: Even if your exercise is just a stroll after dinner, do something! Moving is essential to helping to keep the circulation to the brain strong. I probably don’t have to tell you that moving burns calories as well. If you are consuming extra calories be mindful of increasing exercise accordingly. If you have a set exercise routine, try really hard to not fall off of the wagon during the holidays. Parking far away from stores is helpful to your exercise routine! A little extra exercise now will help to take off the strain on your New Year’s resolutions.

Mind over Matter: when encountering stressful situations, (which will definitely happen in the next month), try to approach the situations in a whole different light. Try to think of this moment as an opportunity instead of a burden. Get to know the person next to you in line. Pay attention to your surroundings. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season rather than getting stuck in the frustration of the moment.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

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