COPING WITH HOLIDAY STRESS
COPING WITH HOLIDAY STRESS
It’s that time of year when stress is more prevalent and almost impossible to avoid. Unfortunately for your adrenal glands and other glands in the body that respond to stress ( see blog on HPA axis) our body does not know the difference between positive or negative stress. In other words, stress from preparing for a holiday dinner party or stress after an injury is perceived similarly in the body. This unfortunately means that last minute grocery trips and time spent in traffic is negatively affecting your health and waistline. Stress has been shown to promote fat storage particularly around the middle. High stress levels are also associated with anxiety, poor sleep, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Stress can even cause brain fog or mental fatigue and down regulate the immune system. Use these tips to prevent and cope with Holiday stress!
STRATEGIES TO COPE WITH HOLIDAY STRESS:
IDENTIFY THE SOURCE OF STRESS
Is the stress External or Internal? If stress is external and brought on by work or social obligations consider practicing self preservation. Avoid spreading yourself too thin and over committing yourself. It is important to be an advocate for your own health and consider your own emotional needs and limits. If you do not take care of yourself how can you be expected to take care of others? If stress is internal consider journaling to export negative thoughts. When you write these thoughts out on paper does your view change? Are these negative thoughts helpful or constructive? Rewrite the negative script or self talk by replacing should and can’t and other words that imply wrongdoing or failure with positive and constructive words that provide a sense of power or purpose.
FUEL YOUR BODY TO BETTER HANDLE STRESS
It is important to ensure adequate nutrition/fuel to handle because after all stress is a HUGE energy zap! Ensure adequate protein intake to support production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin & dopamine which have calming or relaxing properties. Make sure your diet is rich in B vitamins from non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower and and leafy greens to act as cofactors for production of hormones and neurotransmitters. You might also consider incorporating adrenal supporting foods such as; healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado, sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, and vitamin c rich foods like citrus, bell peppers and berries.
AVOID OVER EXERCISING OR OVER TRAINING WITH “ADRENAL FATIGUE” or HPA AXIS DYSFUNCTION
Use workouts or activity as a chance to decompress and reduce stress not a chance to burn calories. Studies have shown that most activity trackers aren’t exactly accurate as to the amount of calories burned and many use exercise to compensate for overeating which can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Avoid choosing fast paced workouts that leave your heart rate constantly elevated as this can be a source of stress to the body and can leave your starving leading to overeating. Also excitatory exercise mimics survival mechanisms and further imbalances your stress responding neurotransmitters as seen with adrenal fatigue. Consider sprinkling in low intensity workouts like flow yoga classes or walking to cope with stress rather than promote irregularities with cortisol spikes as with can be seen with high intensity workouts. Remember workouts should be an outlet for stress not a promoter of stress!
ESTABLISH DAILY, WEEKLY, AND MONTHLY RELAXATION ROUTINES
Set Bi-weekly or Monthly massages appointments ahead of time in order to prevent overbooking yourself or putting yourself to the side and to have relaxation time to look forward to. Establish a daily relaxation routine that can be as simple as taking a walk in the evening or practicing morning meditation to decompress from the day or mentally prepare for it. Turn your bathroom into a spa by sprinkling essential oils in your shower or tub. Essential oils like; lavender, eucalyptus and frankincense have both relaxing and immune boosting benefits that are perfect for reducing stress during the holiday season! Use mindfulness and journaling techniques regularly to prevent from falling out of the habit. Practice gratitude. Research has shown simple acts of daily gratitude to have lasting effects on both mental and even physical health as well. Remember the quote by Teddy Roosevelt; “The secret to having it all is knowing you already do”.
Mindfulness is the act of being aware of one’s current state both physical and emotional and being present. Mindfulness means self acceptance and awareness and avoiding the “right” and “wrong” mentality and instead accepting what is. Mindfulness is not allowing past mistakes to determine the future. Practice mindful eating by being present in terms of sensations or feelings you have internally when “hunger” or “cravings” hit. Ask yourself is hunger above the neck ( a craving for a food) or below the neck (physical hunger or need of fuel). Be present or aware of the food in front of you by focusing on taste, smell , texture and appearance to enhance the experience and to increase satisfaction and satiety. Notice emotions before, during and after eating and practice consuming a mindful indulgence that provides satiation while nourishing your body. Check out my cookbook which features an entire chapter on Mindful Indulgences!