How about kicking your inner Grinch to the curb this holiday season? As much as you want to be in the holiday spirit, chances are good that sometime, before the new year, your stress levels will make you wonder if you’re turning into Scrooge. Research routinely shows that for more than half of us, all this holiday cheer causes as much stress as dentist visits and speeding tickets.
Women tend to feel the brunt of it. You buy most of the gifts, organize holiday parties and make sure the house feels festive. About now, you feel short of time, short of money and pressured to give perfect gifts. This can lead to a range of symptoms including sadness, sleep problems and lack of energy.
While the stressors never seem to change, there are new ways to manage them.
When New Year’s Day rolls around, “reduce my stress levels” is second only to “lose some weight” for New Year’s resolutions. This is encouraging, not only because stress is associated with a higher risk for many diseases, but also because of the many very effective, very easy-to-follow strategies that can help control stress and improve mental wellness.
There’s a link between stress and disease, partly because we’re eating more and exercising less. That’s the exact opposite of what we should do when we’re under stress. But, there are even scarier observations. It also appears that these higher stress levels also cause a direct change in the body’s metabolic machinery – brain cells shrink, immune cells shut off, and both mood and energy levels plummet. That’s why you may be feeling moody, fatigued, bloated, confused, irritable and sick. That’s not exactly my definition of holiday cheer.
Holiday Stress Busters and Strategies
To avoid the “bah humbugs” start with a safe dietary supplement strategy. I look for ingredients that are well researched, shown to be safe and effective. Some of my 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%.
Other strategies for restoring the holidays to a wonderful time of year include practicing gratitude. Being thankful can lower your stress hormones by ~25%. And give back. Altruistic behavior releases endorphins.