As much as you want to be in the holiday spirit, chances are good that sometime before the end of 2019, your stress levels will make you wonder if you’re turning into Scrooge.
Research surveys routinely show that more than half of us feel overwhelmed by the stress of the holidays, meaning that all this holiday cheer causes us as much stress as dentist visits and speeding tickets! And while the stressors never seem to change, there are new ways to manage them.
THE EFFECTS OF HOLIDAY STRESS
The season of giving can result in receiving headaches, moodiness and sleepless nights. From the perfect turkey and visiting in-laws to your mounting credit card bills, holiday stress can do some serious damage.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), more than half of all women (51%) and men (43%) in the United States experience heightened stress during the holidays. That’s enough stress to put them at increased risk for physical and mental health effects.
Does this sound like you? On top of stress associated with work, right now you feel short of time, short of money and pressured to give the perfect gifts. This can lead to a range of symptoms including sadness, sleep problems and lack of energy.
Stress and disease are linked partly because we’re eating more and exercising less. That’s the exact opposite of what we should do when we’re under stress. A key culprit in these metabolic changes appears to be an imbalance between the body’s microbiome, immune system, adrenal (stress) system and gut-brain axis.
BUST HOLIDAY STRESS WITH SUPPLEMENTS
To avoid the “bah humbugs,” start with a safe dietary supplement strategy. Look for ingredients that are well researched, shown to be safe and effective. Some top favorites for this time of year include:
L-theanine. This is an amino acid naturally found in green tea leaves. L-theanine can help shift brain waves away from tension/anxiety and toward relaxed alertness within as little as 30 minutes. A new study describes how Suntheanine, a patented form of theanine, helps reduce stress-related symptoms in healthy adults. Study participants reported a significant decrease in anxiety and depression while taking Suntheanine. They also reported that they were able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep, with fewer sleep aid medications.
Ginger and artichoke extracts: These may reduce feelings of discomfort and bloating after a meal. The combination has been shown to improve overall GI function by 24%.
Saffron: The same bioactive compounds responsible for this popular spice’s aroma may also help to improve focus and mood, both of which can be in short supply during the height of holiday stress.
Corn grass extract: One study showed that this North American-sourced nutrient may help you fall asleep 33% faster while increasing REM rejuvenating sleep by 24% and boosting overall sleep quality by 40%.
Prebiotic fiber. Your gut creates serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters responsible for your mood, so it’s important to keep it in good balance. Soluble fiber feeds the good bacteria in our gut. I like soluble guar fiber, available over the counter as Sunfiber, because it has been shown in more than 120 clinical studies to support digestive health without the uncomfortable side effects.”
STRATEGIES FOR HOLIDAY RESTORATION
Love yourself first: Have an “outlet” (a hobby or some diversion outside of work).
Practice gratitude: Being thankful can lower your stress hormones by ~25%. Learn to tell the difference between “big” issues and “little” issues, and learn to look on the bright side. As simplistic as it sounds, the fact that you can look to what is improving in a given situation can help to psychologically buffer the stress in others areas of your life.
Connect with others: Hang out with friends and avoid social isolation. Tough times are always easier when you’re around other people. The holidays are the perfect time to get together with family and friends.
Give back: Altruistic behaviors release endorphins. Giving a gift feels better than getting a gift!
Shawn Talbott, PhD holds a MS in Exercise Science from University of Massachusetts and a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from Rutgers. He is a Fellow of both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American College of Nutrition. Dr. Talbott is the author of hundreds of articles and more than a dozen books on nutrition and fitness. His work has been featured in media outlets around the world, including a variety of segments on The Dr. Oz Show, as well as at the White House as part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity.