Updated: Dec 19, 2019
The holidays are a wonderful time of year...friends and family come together to celebrate and give thanks...
...but the holidays can also be extremely stressful for many people...and stress can really rob you of health and happiness during this festive time!
When it comes to the effects of stress on the body, there is no difference between emotional stress, nutritional stress, physical stress, or any other type of stress…In fact, regardless of the type of stress, the body will produce the same type of stress response.
SO...here are five of the TOP things you can do to reduce cortisol chaos to stay healthy now and into the New Year:
This may seem almost impossible to most people…especially women who tend to feel more stressed during the holidays. It can be difficult juggling busy work schedules with shopping, putting up the Christmas tree, and preparing a ‘peaceful’ seating arrangement for Christmas dinner.
However, based on past Christmas seasons, you already know what to expect…stressing out over things you can't control actually leads to more stress response system dysfunction and worsening cortisol levels...So, it’s important to keep your eye on the big picture, and truly, the most important thing…your health!
Here are some ways to keep your stress in check
1. Don't overextend yourself. There's only one of you, so prioritize and ask for help when you need it.
2. Try meditating...even if it's only for 5 minutes a day. Research has shown meditation can drastically reduce the negative effects of stress very quickly. For those of you who don't have the time or the patience, try the miraculous supplement, Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid extracted from the leaves of green tea that does the same thing to brain wave activity as meditating withing 30 to 45 minutes of taking it. Learn more about Theanine HERE.
3. Remove yourself from stressful situations if possible. Walk outside, take a drive..do whatever you need to do to take a break, take a deep breath, and gain a calm perspective.
4. Ask yourself this question..."Is this stress worth sacrificing my health?"
Alcohol in Moderation
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but too much holiday cheer can wreak havoc on your body. Research indicates that on average, people drink 100% more over the holidays with sugar-laden drinks, such as Eggnog and Bailey’s with coffee topping the list. Certainly, the added stress of the holidays also leads to more drinking…but this plan can backfire big time...Why?
1. Alcohol causes the adrenal glands to pump out more cortisol over a longer period of time. This can lead to more depression, anxiety, insomnia.
2. Alcohol contains sugar which raises blood glucose, insulin, and cortisol. This can negatively affect mood, memory, and sleep. The added sugar also increases alcohol and sugar cravings.
3. Alcohol causes numerous vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, including B vitamins, Zinc, and Magnesium. These nutrients are critical for the normal production and function of the neurotransmitters which affect your mood, memory, and stress response.
It’s best to limit alcohol as much as possible…but, if that’s not possible, try drinking a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages and never drink on an empty stomach. If you could use some additional support, Medcaps DPO is an excellent supplement which contains vitamins and herbal extracts which protect your liver from the harmful effects of alcohol (and other toxins), reduce inflammation, and help the liver to clear toxins more quickly and effectively. Learn more about Medcaps DPO HERE.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep fuels cortisol chaos and makes a person even more sensitive to psychological and physical stress. Basically, being tired will make your stress fuse even shorter than normal.
Research has shown that for optimal health, getting seven hours of sleep is the absolute minimum. In fact, eight hours is even better.
During sleep, important hormones, including melatonin and growth hormone, are produced. Additionally, cortisol levels are reduced. The effect is cell rejuvenation, tissue healing, and improved immune system function. If a person doesn't sleep at the right times (i.e. ideal bedtime between 10:00 and 11:00 pm) or doesn't get enough sleep, every tissue and organ will be negatively affected.
Here are some things you can do to make sleep a priority, especially during the holidays:
1. Don't eat or drink anything except water at least 2 hours before going to bed.
2. Don't watch television or use any electronic devices (including cell phones and computers) for at least 2 hours before going to bed
3. Maintain the same sleep wake cycle every day of the week, including weekends. Go to bed no later than 11 pm and wake up at the same time every morning, ideally between 6:00 and 8:00 am.
4. Try adding some natural sleep aides designed to help nighttime hormone balance without causing harmful side effects or dependency. Melatonin is one great example. Try the immediate release for trouble falling asleep and the sustained release if you have trouble staying asleep. Learn more about Melatonin HERE.
Don't Over Indulge
Even though the average person only gains about one pound over the holidays, this pound is typically never lost...which means those holiday pounds will add up year after year.
But, even more important than its affect on body weight are the widespread, harmful effects certain foods also have on hormone health and cortisol levels...which means...
what you eat will affect your stress, your mood, and your sleep!
Here are some examples:
1. Sugar and high fat foods destroy the area of the brain which controls memory, learning, and cortisol production.
2. Processed foods are high in histamine. Histamine is an inflammatory chemical which interferes with optimal gut health and hormone production and function. The results? fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and abnormal cortisol production.
It's totally unreasonable to expect people to be 100% compliant when it comes to healthy eating over the holidays...SO, here are some more realistic ways you can enjoy without doing too much damage:
1. Don't deprive yourself. It's perfectly fine to eat a chocolate bon bon or a piece of ham...just limit the amount you eat.
2. For everyone 'unhealthy' food item you eat, eat at least two healthy foods with it at the same time.
3. Drink A LOT of water. This will help to keep you full and to reduce food induced inflammation
4. Eat smaller, more frequent meals or snacks throughout the day. Also, if you plan to attend a Christmas party, eat a salad or other healthy meal in advance so you aren't so hungry you fill up on 'the bad stuff'.
5. If you have a difficult time controlling what or how much you eat, try ....Appe-Curb. It's a great natural alternative to addicting, and potentially dangerous, prescription diet pills. Learn more about Appe-curb HERE.
Years of research about proven that staying physically active improves health, reduces aging, and prolongs life. Exercise also reduces stress, improves mood, and improves sleep...all of which control cortisol chaos!
Many people 'don't have time' to exercise, especially during the holidays...BUT, there are some easy ways you can add physical activity into your daily routine:
1. While you're out Christmas shopping, take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Also, take a few extra laps around the mall...since you're already there.
2. Instead of sitting, try standing as much as possible. Standing reduces obesity and weight gain and lowers the risk of heart disease.
3. Take a 10 minute walk, especially a few hours after your last meal. Walking in the evening not only helps burn those late night calories, it's also been shown to improve sleep quality.
4. Moderate exercise has been shown to improve the way the body responds to stress.