It’s meant to be ‘the most wonderful and cosiest time of the year’ but the pressure of the holidays often means a STRESS OVERLOAD! Here’s what to do about it.
Trying to get everything done in time can be incredibly overwhelming, especially for women – a third of whom feel more stressed in December than any other month, according to research. Money getting tighter, family tensions, pressure to socialise, and over-excited children on a sugar high is hardly a recipe for success. And, if you already struggle to stay at your happy weight or often turn to food as a way of coping or rewarding yourself, being surrounded by treats and snacks over the holidays rarely has a happy ending.
Most people underestimate the impact of Everyday Stress on Weight, Digestion, Constipation, Mental health, Hormones, Aging, Skin, Inflammation to name just a few. You might already know that chronic stress is implicated in most chronic diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems and asthma.
If you’re thinking you don’t fall into the ‘I’m not stressed enough to be making myself ill’ category, don’t be fooled. I've been there, I tell you it's vicious and progressive. The drip-drip-drip of everyday stress can be as damaging as major life incident-related stress (such as death and divorce), so today just start taking 1 action. It's been proven that Stress makes it very hard to lose fat / can lead to weight gain, and you’re much more likely to store fat around the middle. This is because the human body hasn’t evolved much since caveman times, when the extra energy was stored where it was most easily accessed, so it could be used to run away from the sabre-toothed tiger!
Here are my top 6 ways to keep stress under control in the run up to the holidays:
1. The 10-minute mind trick: Set aside 7-10 minutes a day for deep breathing / meditation. I usually suggest mornings to set the tone of your day but find what works for you. I also suggest finding a guided meditation app here. Simply find a comfortable position in a quiet room with your back supported and eyes closed. Listen and follow the guided meditation. Thoughts will most likely bubble to the surface which is totally normal! The more you resist the more it will persist. Simply bring your attention back to your breath and continue until the time is up. It took me a while to find what i like and fit it into my routine so keep experimenting and you will find what works for you.
2. Eat regularly: Erratic eating times and skipping meals can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels, which leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s difficult when routines go out the window, but try to stick to three meals (with two optional snacks) a day and your digestion will thank you for it. Base all your meals and snacks on proteins (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, peas, legumes and seeds), vegetables and smaller amounts of fruits and complex carbs (brown wild rice, wholemeal bread or pasta).
3. Cut back on alcohol and caffeine: I know it’s hard, especially at Christmas when socialising revolves around drinking, but try significantly reducing your alcohol and caffeine intake as often as you can and go for alternatives (covered in a different blog). Caffeine causes a release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands - the last thing you want if you are already stressed! At first, alcohol might help to relax you when you’re stressed out (by promoting the release of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter), but it is quickly metabolised to sugar that can lead to a restless sleep, which leads me onto my next tip.
4. Prioritise sleep: Get into a sleep routine that includes relaxing practices such as taking a warm bath with Epsom salts, deep breathing, light reading, stretching, doing your gratitude. Introduce a digital detox at least an hour before bed (that means no phones, no TV, no laptops or tablets), so as not to disrupt melatonin production (the sleep hormone). A light snack such as an oatcake with almond butter, small slice of turkey/avo or a piece of banana may help to support undisturbed sleep.
5. Eat magnesium-rich meals: Magnesium relaxes the nervous system so eating foods rich in this mineral, such as leafy greens, avocados, sesame seeds and spinach can help reduce stress. I strongly suggest taking a Magnesium supplement like this one on top as it is easily depleted on a daily basis.
GET TO THE CAUSE: Look at the root cause to any sources of stress in your life, and think about how you respond to it. If the effect of stress or just general busyness gets in the way of your efforts to stay healthy and you’d like to do something about it, I warmly invite you to CHECK HERE TO SEE HOW I CAN HELP YOU!
All the best of Health,