Stop the Holiday Stress

The holidays are supposed to be one of the most cheerful times of the year, but they can also be
fraught with anxiety, grief and stress.
Planning and attending parties, visiting family and friends, having family come visit (sometimes
for too long), having to shop for MORE groceries, and having to cook MORE food (not to
mention the over-abundance of sweets and desserts) all help to ratchet up stress levels. Financial
pressures also tend to peak at this time of year — worries over having enough money to purchase
gifts and take time off of work.
To handle stress, many people turn to food — especially sweets — and then feel guilty for what
they consumed. This guilt then increases their stress, and it becomes a vicious cycle that can be
challenging to break. It’s no wonder the holiday season is a time of increased illness, since stress
and sweets cause a major decrease in immune system function.
If the impending holidays are already causing feelings of overwhelm and stress, try
implementing some of the following suggestions:
Exercise affects a neurotransmitter that has an antidepressant-like effect on your brain, while
helping to decrease muscle tension. Start your day with exercise. Go for a brisk walk on
Thanksgiving morning, when you are feeling anxious or to relieve stress after your company
leaves. After your meal, invite visiting family and friends to go for a walk. Not only will you
burn off some of the calories you consumed, but you’ll burn off some of that holiday stress, as
Spend Time in Nature
Just five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood, helping you to relax!
Take a Break
Taking a short 10-minute break to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you can trigger a
relaxation response. Meditating during your breaks can help you redirect your mind to silence
and decrease feelings of stress and anxiety even more. Turn off your racing mind and simply
focus on the present moment and task at hand. Avoid worrying about what you need to do later
in the day or tomorrow. If you have trouble shutting out such thoughts, jot them down on a piece
of paper to help clear your mind and assure your brain you will remember and get to the task
Drink Up
Ideally our body should be about 70 percent water. However, research shows many people are
only 40-50 percent water. This dehydration causes decreased metabolism and increases
inflammation in the body. Drinking water decreases inflammation, helps improve weight loss by
reducing cravings and helps body systems work more efficiently. Shoot for 64 ounces of water a
day — the equivalent of four 16-ounce bottles. Start with 16 ounces when you first get up. Have
another 16 ounces 30 minutes to an hour before lunch, and 16 ounces before dinner. Make sure

not to drink more than 4-6 ounces with meals so you don’t dilute your stomach acids and
decrease your ability to digest your foods.
Focus on Fiber
Fiber reduces cravings, and helps improve your metabolism and ability to lose fat. High fiber
foods help fill you up and feel more satisfied with less food. Reach for raw unsalted nuts,
vegetables, berries, legumes and hummus.
Mindful Eating
Chew slowly, at least 20 times per bite. This improves digestion and allows you to feel full and
satisfied with less food.
Don’t skip the most important meal
It is so easy to get in a hurry during the holidays with all the preparations that need to be done.
Many people will drink their coffee and fail to eat breakfast, or they will rationalize skipping
breakfast because they are “saving calories” for the big meal later in the day. Both of these
choices harm more than help by creating imbalanced blood sugar, which leads to cravings,
irritability and decreased ability to deal with stress. You don’t have to eat a big breakfast, just a
couple boiled eggs will give you a serving of protein and fat to get your metabolism going.
Practice Moderation
The holidays are a special time to enjoy yourself. It is okay to splurge every now and then. Eat
the foods you enjoy in small portions. If you eat well 80 percent of the time, then you can have
foods considered “treats” 20 percent of the time.
Bring a Side
If you are preparing the meal or bringing a dish, make something that goes along with your
nutritional needs, such as a green salad loaded with vegetables. By doing this, you will be sure
you have a healthy option when sitting down at the table.
Be grateful
Express your gratitude to those you gather with this holiday season. Go around the table and
have each person share one thing for which they are grateful. When we focus on the meaning of
the season, we reduce our stress and increase our joy and optimism. Keep a gratitude journal and
write down why you are grateful each day. Focus on what you do have this holiday instead of
what you don’t.
Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season!

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