With the holiday season nearly here, many of us are already thinking ahead to the wellness challenges that often accompany this fun and merry time of year. Some of the more common issues are increased stress levels, digestive problems and potential weight gain, all of which have connection points.
It’s rather a given that the holidays tempt people to overeat, usually on calorie-rich traditional fare, while exercise commonly falls by the wayside. The plot thickens when you factor in the additional stress one may face with a packed social calendar, work events, frenzied holiday shopping, decorating, preparing for a houseful of guests, and other time-consuming demands between November and January.
Along with setting the stage for “stress eating,” which occurs when a person reaches for “comfort” foods to self-soothe or cope in trying times, such holiday-induced pressures can also promote increased levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
Too much cortisol is associated with health concerns including increased blood sugar levels, digestive problems, constipation, bloating and weight gain. Those elevated blood sugar levels are potentially damaging to gut barrier function, driving bacteria imbalances in your microbiome, which studies show can alter your immune response and make your body more susceptible to infection.
To add insult to injury, rich holiday foods in excess can increase biomarkers of inflammation. One study found, for example, that a high-fat diet is linked to unfavorable changes in the communities of bacteria in the gut, your “microbiome,” with possible negative effects on your health.
As you can see, there are a variety of possible health pitfalls in an otherwise merry season. The good news is that the better you understand the cascade of problems that can ensue when you combine seasonal stress with overconsumption of foods high in fat and sugar, the more you can enjoy this festive time without compromising your wellness. The following tips can help you cope better while enjoying the festive foods you love in moderation, giving your digestive system a fighting chance along the way.
Stress and Digestion Tip for the Holidays
When it comes to any major project, advanced planning is invariably more productive than last-minute scrambling, not to mention easier on the nerves. The holiday season is a great case in point, whether you are organizing parties, buying gifts, setting up menus, shopping for food, or arranging special events. Planning weeks ahead also enables you to avoid crowded malls by purchasing gifts, décor, party food staples and other items from online resources as much as possible. To that end, check out this healthy Holiday Gift Guide for everyone on your list.
Know your boundaries
Many of us can feel overwhelmed during the holiday season due to our inability to say no to friends, family, and/or co-workers. If you’re a “people pleaser” it can be especially hard to turn down invitations to parties, work-related celebrations, requests to help with school or community events, accommodate houseguests, host gatherings, etc. If you can learn to draw the line when demands start to get excessive, you are more likely to stay happy and healthy along the way, which will benefit everyone around you as well.
Protect yourself nutritionally
When you are under stress, your need for key vitamins and minerals is typically higher. Unfortunately, when you’re pressed for time, you may be less likely to prepare healthy, whole food meals brimming with fresh produce, placing yourself at a deficit from a nutritional standpoint. To help ensure you maintain optimal wellness during hectic times, consider the following supplemental essentials, at minimum:
- A full spectrum daily multi-vitamin/mineral formula
- A comprehensive B-complex
- A microbiome-nurturing probiotic blend
- Liquid, chewable or powdered vitamin C
You can also fortify yourself with a daily “wellness shot” packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. Here are some awesome grab-and-go wellness shot options, perfect when life is moving at a rapid pace. You can also make these yourself, customizing them based on your needs and preferences. Learn how to craft your own wellness shots so you can enjoy them anytime.
When people are unusually busy, exercise is often the first thing to go. And yet, moving our bodies daily is one of the most effective ways to manage stress, as it helps to reduce elevated levels of cortisol, among many other benefits. Even if you can’t make it to the gym or yoga class, you can probably manage a 20 to 40-minute walk outside.
Making this “me time” a consistent part of your daily routine promotes your physical and emotional wellness in numerous ways, including supporting a healthy microbiome by gently stimulating digestion and elimination. So, cue up your favorite music, invite a grateful dog if you like, and step out daily for some invaluable natural therapy. Scaling a few hills is a bonus!
Insist on healthy sleep
It’s no surprise that restorative slumber can suffer during busy times, especially if you feel anxious or worried. Yet, regularly getting enough high-quality sleep is essential for your well-being for many reasons, from helping you effectively manage stress to promoting efficient digestion and elimination, and much more. Specifically, a healthy sleep cycle helps keep cortisol levels in check while it facilitates the production of melatonin and prolactin, which studies show can improve the “good” bacteria in the intestines and support healthy digestion.
Fortunately, there are many natural, non-habit-forming sleep aids to help you get the rest you need, Consider, for example, this unique night stress support, these beneficial sleep capsules or this Black Elderberry Nighttime Syrup. When the pressure mounts, you might also pamper yourself with this soothing lavender-infused CBD sleep lotion, perfect after a relaxing bubble bath.
As you look ahead to the coming festivities, you have a fresh opportunity to avoid the wellness challenges that trouble so many people year after year. It’s amazing what a few smart lifestyle adjustments can do. Nor will you be the only beneficiary when you act with these tips in mind. Remember, the better care you take of yourself, the more you have available to give to others. Cheers!