Ahh, yes, ‘tis the season…to be stressed. Unfortunately, not a lot of good comes from holiday stress. Often, we find ourselves drinking more alcohol, eating more sugar and sleeping less as a result. In fact, instead of feeling the good cheer of the season, more than half of us end up feeling tired, stressed and irritable during this time of year according to the American Psychological Association. So what can you do to keep a lid on stress and enjoy the holidays? Here are 10 tips to help you stay healthy and, relatively, calm.
- Try mindful consumption.Yes, we know the temptation is to reach for that chocolate truffle, another glass of wine, even that bag of Doritos. Unfortunately, instead of “taking the edge off,” these nutritionally void foods are more likely to increase holiday stress. Alcohol is a depressant and too much can increase anxiety, the same is true of coffee. Likewise, studies have shown that a high-processed, junk food diet puts you at greater risk for depression than eating a healthier one.
- Eat healthy. Okay, we know it's hard to be perfect this time of year, but when possible choose complex carbohydrates and protein. Eating complex carbohydrates can help increase your levels of serotonin, which is known to calm your mind and lift your mood. Protein, on the other hand, helps the brain produce neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which help us feel good. Protein helps your brain function properly and too little can make us feel sad. When protein is paired with complex carbohydrates it helps to sustain our mood and energy over longer periods of time than if we just eat carbs on their own.
- Exercise more. It’s no secret that exercise can help to boost your mood and release endorphins. Walking does count, but according to a new study in the Journal of Affective Disorders, moderate to high-intensity exercise is even more effective than low-intensity exercise at mitigating depressive symptoms. Further, aerobic exercise improves how we react to stress. So more than just a walk, try to pick up the pace and sweat a little over the holidays.
- Relax and breathe. Studies have shown a daily practice of meditation to be an effective stress reliever. Just 25-minutes a day for three days could relieve your holiday stress and anxiety. Even yoga works. A recent study showed that women who took part in just one 90-minute yoga class had much lower stress levels than those who didn't participate.
- Stay hydrated.Our bodies are 50-65 percent water. So, it's no wonder when we lose water through dehydration it tips the scale on how our brain and body function. Not only does dehydration affect our muscles, it can affect our brain, too. Dehydration can make us feel logy and tired and research has shown it can affect both our mood and thinking.
- Befriend Vitamin B. Research has associated Vitamin B deficiencies—in particular Vitamins B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12—with depression and overall mental and emotional health. Vitamin B6 plays a role in helping the body produce the mood-influencing serotonin and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Low levels of B6 can lead to feelings of depression.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation and a lack of good sleep can impair memory, mood and put you at risk for depression. People who suffer from insomnia are 17 times more likely to suffer from anxiety problems than those who don’t according to a study published in the journal Vitamins and minerals can help. Vitamin B6 influences melatonin production, which helps regulate our circadian rhythm and helps us sleep. Magnesium, too, relaxes our muscles and improves sleep.
- Take a Multivitamin. While Vitamin B is the superstar at this time of year, Vitamins A, C, D, and E all are import in helping to alleviate stress and anxiety and boost your immunity. It's not always possible to get all of the nutrients you need through food, so a multivitamin is like an extra insurance policy to support your body during this time of year. Staying healthy is critical to warding off stress.
- Laugh a little or a lot. It’s true, a good laugh can help cure the blues. Actually, studies have shown that laughter can reduce anxiety and stress. A good laugh can increase endorphins while reducing the presence of stress hormones.
- Use aromatherapy. Studies have shown the use of aromatherapy and essential oils to help relax the body and reduce stress. Lavender oil, in particular, has been shown to alleviate anxiety and tension. Use it in a bath or light a lavender-scented candle to help melt away tensions and relax. Or, try citrus and mint oils to boost your mood and energy.
Here's to a stress-free season and happy holidays!