Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, in Canada December ends up being “holiday season”; a whole month of social events (lunches, dinners, work parties, friends’ parties you name it), family functions, gift selection and shopping (friends and loved ones, co-workers, your boss, host gifts – the list goes on) – all positive in theory but once you get out of childhood it can turn into more stress than joy. Who knew celebrating could be so exhausting?
The increased obligations and time crunch of the season mean your best laid health and wellness plans tend to melt like December snow in Toronto, leaving you feeling fatigued, overwhelmed and not very merry. To make matters worse, the holiday season coincides almost perfectly with peak cold and flu season – the worst time of year to be run down, stressed out and vulnerable to virus’.
The best defence is a good offence so here are a few advance tips on how to reduce holiday season stress and maintain some semblance of a wellness routine in the month of December, and most importantly enjoy it!
1. Simplify & Organize
Every year December seems to sneak up – which is just silly because it is literally on repeat, and we know it’s coming. So, try to get ahead of it. Make a list in November of all the gifts you need to purchase. Check that list and eliminate anyone that you can without being too Scroogey. Sometimes a conversation with that person is all it takes; they may be relieved if you both agree not to gift each other. Then set your budget and be realistic; don’t go over-board. Consider on-behalf donations instead of actual gifts – most people have enough stuff already and will appreciate that you have thought of them, and are donating to a cause that is meaningful to them or to you instead of gifting. On-behalf giving works really well for groups – such as your office, clients and family. And you can do it all online, saving the stress of shopping during the busiest retail season of the year.
Not rocket science. Think 80/20 – stick to your version of your healthy eating pan 80% of the time, and then the 20% that you indulge won’t totally side-swipe you. Be extra cognizant of sweets and limit how many you consume. Especially the office chocolate and sweets that just seem to keep coming. Sugar wreaks havoc with your immune system, which you don’t want to compromise with cold and flu bugs in plentiful supply.
When you know you are heading to a holiday party, be ready. If it’s a cocktail party do not arrive hungry. Instead of “pre-drinking” (remember when we did that?) consider pre-eating. Enjoy a nutrient-rich salad or easy raw veggies prior to the party. A protein smoothie or even protein in a shaker cup is a great idea – Niyama’s Organic Plant Protein works beautifully in smoothies with fruits and greens, but can also be consumed with just water or plant mylk in a shaker cup if you are on the go. The trick is to arrive at the party well-nourished; which has two benefits: you can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail without it going straight to your head, and you won’t need to attack all the appys and sweets that don’t tend to be super healthy, and should not replace dinner. Watch the alcohol – sip slowly, enjoy lower alcohol drinks such as prosecco, or wine spritzers, or ask the bartender to mix your drink weak. Or forgo it all together and try an alcohol-free drink.
Support your Adrenals
Any kind of stress causes a reaction within your body; your adrenal glands start to push out more cortisol. When the stress event subsides, cortisol secretions return to normal. But when the stress is sustained over a long period of time (like in modern life!) your adrenals just keep secreting cortisol – and that can lead to adrenal fatigue. Irritability, brain fog, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, difficulty sleeping are all part of that. Make sure you get exercise – a yoga class can do wonders to reduce cortisol. Carve out some quiet self-care time each day to breathe deeply, and consider adding adaptogenic plant medicine to your daily routine. Ashwagandha helps the body adapt to stress, Rhodiola can help reduce stress-related fatigue, and Bacopa supports mental focus. All three adaptogens plus the amino L-theanine are in Niyama’s Daytime Zen Stress Support formula – and you only need one capsule each morning. *
It’s always tempting to skimp on sleep when we have so much on our plate – but that is the last thing we should be doing. Aim for 7-9 hours per night. When you have a late night (or 4) try to get back to your regular sleep/wake schedule as soon as you can, and ensure you sleep in a cool, dark room, or with a sleep mask. Get off your screens an hour before you turn in. If you are having difficulty falling or staying asleep consider a natural sleep supplement like Sleep Like Buddha, 30-60 minutes before bed to help improve sleep quality and manage nighttime stress symptoms.*
Say No Thank You
This one is simple in theory but harder in practice. The good news is, it gets easier as you get older LOL. You can’t make everyone happy, especially during the holidays so don’t stress yourself out trying. Say yes to the invitations and requests that you can manage and decline politely those that you can’t. When you overbook yourself with commitments you are setting yourself up to compromise on sleep and add unnecessary stress. Know your limits, the people that care about you will understand.
*As always, follow all package directions on any nutritional supplement and consult your healthcare practitioner when starting a new regimen.