Practitioner Corner: Four Simple Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress!

by | Nov 24, 2016 | 0 comments

When I was at the store in early October, I noticed that they were already stocking shelves for the Christmas holiday season. Right there, one aisle over from the Halloween decorations! Yikes!

As the seasons change, I know that many of our clients still aren’t ready for the start of the major holiday season. Unfortunately, the holidays are a major source of stress for a lot of people. A poll done several years ago by the American Psychological Association actually found that 8 out of 10 people anticipated increased stress over their holidays.

Wow, that statistic is even stressful!

And stress is so impactful to your clients’ health.

Stress robs the people we work with from experiencing the best out of your holidays – enjoying relationships and traditions, and just feeling happy.  It also rob them of their health.

Stress can create havoc with digestion, causing digestive symptoms, as well as reducing the absorption of nutrients the body needs to keep immunity in check. Stress can impact the health of the gut microbiome. 

That translates to negative impacts throughout the body, including brain health, leading to less clear focus – brain fog,  have memory issuesmoodiness.   It can also lead to weight fain, especially belly fat.

Stress causes an increase of cortisol. The major catabolic effects of cortisol involve cortisol and belly fatfacilitating the conversion of protein in muscles and connective tissue into glucose and glycogen (cortisol may increase liver glycogen).

Gluconeogenesis involves both the increased degradation of protein already formed and the decreased synthesis of new protein.

Cortisol can also decrease the utilization of glucose by cells by directly inhibiting glucose transport into the cells. Cortisol excess can also lead to decreased insulin sensitivity.

Cortisol also reduces the utilization of amino acids for protein formation in muscle cells. Cortisol excess can lead to a progressive loss of protein, muscle weakness and atrophy, and loss of bone mass through increased calcium excretion and less calcium absorption.

Excess cortisol can also adversely affect tendon health. Cortisol causes a redistribution of bodyfat to occur. Basically, the extremities lose fat and muscle while the trunk and face become fatter. Cortisol excess can also lead to hypertension because it causes sodium retention (which can cause a bloated appearance) and potassium excretion.

If all of that wasn’t enough, stress just doesn’t feel good and can lead to depression and anxiety.

So how do we guide our clients, and maybe ourselves, to have a less stressful holiday season this year?

Share these four simple ways to reduce holiday stress with Clients

Start practicing the art of “mini-vacations” TODAY

I am a certified HeartMath™ practitioner, and their process is a very easy way to get started – right away – on rp_listen-to-music.jpgreducing your daily stress. There is a lot of science behind the process.  You can check out their site, www.HeartMath.org, to learn more.

The system involves deep-directed breathing techniques coupled with focusing on positive emotions. It will reduce cortisol levels, support adrenal and immune system health, support the nervous system, and give you a sense of well-being and calm.

The “mini-vacation” process stimulates physiological and biochemical changes to make your body, mind, and spirit believe it’s on a vacation – away from the shopping lists, money expenditures, and party planning. Listen to this audio about how to take a mini-vacation on a regular basis. Pass the link along to your clients in their holiday card or post on your website!

Remember what the holidays are about! The answer isn’t gifts!

I think we should all “just say no” to elaborate spending over the holidays.  Instead, focus on “giving” two things that cost literally nothing: our appreciation and our companionship. Research has shown that 75% of Americans are stressed about their finances, so why add to that burden with expensive gifts?

Plus, giving appreciation, or gratitude, is so supportive of your overall health and happiness, and the recipient’s happiness, too!

Give the gift of your time and your companionship, versus simply spending money. Write a letter telling someone how much you appreciate them or some part they’ve played in your life. Give an IOU for some of your time helping a friend or neighbor in their yard, walking their dog, or doing something else that helps them out. Make a photo-album sharing special memories you’ve enjoyed with a family member or friend. Gifts involving your time are usually much more appreciated than gifts that can be purchased with the click of a button from Amazon!

And consider volunteering.wheelchair_disabled_depression

Especially around the holidays, volunteering is a wonderful way to de-stress others who are not as fortunate as you, and often has the side-benefit of de-stressing you as well.

Many people are shut-ins or don’t have a lot of connections in their lives.  Visit a nursing home and share the best gift of all – YOU!

Better yet, make volunteering a family affair!

Maintain your routine as much as possible

Try to continue with your usual sleep routine and exercise program. Sleep is critical to your energy, mood, and your ability to handle stress!

Maintain your routine as much as you can as the holidays approach. Sure, you can splurge a bit, but don’t binge on carbs, sugars, and alcohol. I recommend keeping a food log during the holidays. While it may not feel festive to do so, there is nothing quite like a food log to really understand where that additional 5 pounds came from last week!

istock_000007457719xsmallFocus on eating the healthy, anti-inflammatory foods you usually eat! Most parties do have some healthy foods, so look for them! You know you may be tempted a bit here and there! So, increase your intake of foods that both support your immune health and alleviate stress symptoms.

Some other suggestions: Bump up the probiotics!  Research tells us that a healthy gut is important for a strong immune system. Did you know that 80% of your immune cells are in your gut? A healthy gut can also keep critters such as yeast at bay; those critters love all of that holiday sugar!

Another way to help counter the effects of the holiday over-indulgences? Take in some adaptogens, like rhodiola rosea and ashwagandha. Adaptogens are plants having properties that help your body and mind cope more effectively with the stress in your environment, as well as within your body.  Rhodiola rosea has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, and is used to alleviate stress-related symptoms, such as anxiety.

Ashwagandha has been used to alleviate anxiety and panic, mild mood swings, and a lack of mental clarity and focus.   Bacopa is another highly esteemed Ayurvedic herb which is used to enhance memory, learning, and concentration. Besides reducing cortisol, it works by balancing the brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.  This herb is especially good for age-related mental decline. If you are troubled with memory loss, lack of focus, anxiety, and insomnia, consider giving bacopa a try.

Incorporate more FUN in your Holidays!

Portrait of a happy woman playing with autumn leaves in forest

This may sound like a no-brainer, but, surprisingly, a lot of us are so stressed out with our schedule obligations and holiday tasks that we aren’t having any FUN.

Added to holiday financial concerns, there are family gatherings which are already stressful for any number of reasons, not least of which is that expectations are not always met.  Remember that year you couldn’t find the Talking Elmo? Gee, did that ruin your holidays or what?. 

We have these Hallmark ideas of what things should be like.  These are not based in reality.  Let’s just say we need to STOP and have a bit of FUN and laughter, and enjoy the life we have right before our eyes.

Try doing something completely off everyone’s radar. How about a family PJ night by the fire playing board games, with NO TV or electronics.  It’s surprisingly FUN! Or how about a night with family or friends making holiday ornaments. Crafting can be very relaxing. Get everyone out for a walk, perhaps have a scavenger hunt for the most colorful leaves people can find. Or what about getting everyone together to make some low-glycemic gluten-free holiday treats?

Just have some laughs and enjoy!

If you find that stress is keeping you from enjoy this holiday season, I encourage you to take a look at my Transforming Stress System.  Learn how to keep your stress from expanding your waistline and zapping your energy.  It’s also a great system to share with your clients.