Holidays and Stress – By Dr. Alan Christianson:
Hi there Dr. Christianson here. In case you didn’t know this we are coming into the holidays. Seasons greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanuka, whatever else. The sad thing is that this is a tough time for most people. Many papers have shown that our seasonal stress patterns are never higher then they are over the holidays. Why would that be?
Well during holidays we often spend more then we plan to. We eat more then we plan to. We may not be getting enough sleep. Were spending time with people we are not used to seeing as much. We are indoors quit a bit more. The weather may not be the best. There is less sunlight. So when you put all that together it creates a big stress load. It can have a lot of effects upon your day to day health. Some people notice that there sleep gets worse or they withdraw socially. Maybe they feel edgy or they get digestive symptoms or headaches or clinching teeth or fatigue or muscle pain. These are all real things and they are all very powerful and these can come from holiday stressors.
The vicious cycle is that a lot of the ways the holidays are stacked against our health we are more driven towards those things that give us short term pleasure like more food or more alcohol when we are not feeling good. So this whole thing feeds upon itself but this year it can be different. This year does not have to be the same. Here are some easy ways to work around that.
The first one is do not be SAD. So SAD as in in Seasonal Affective Disorder. One of the biggest ways in which the holiday season affects us is just by the simple lack of sunlight. Many have argued that a lot of our holidays come about because ancient holidays were on the shortest day of the year and many ancient groups felt that if they did not celebrate and tear it up pretty good the sun may not come back again. So we have these things when the days are shorter and that is just less light and a big affect upon the stress load. One easy way to help is to keep your Vitamin D up at a good range. You know the ways in which we get sick more over the holidays and feel worse can be because we are lower in this good nutrient that in the past we made from the sun. If you are not taking Vitamin D get yourself tested for it. You would be surprised how many people are really deficient in it. If you are taking some Vitamin D get yourself tested for it. You would be surprised how many are not on the best amount. Usually too little but dial it in. You want to be between 50 or 75 nanograms per deciliter in your bloodstream and for some people it takes a lot. It might take five or ten thousand units but it can build up and it can help to reduce your holiday stress.
So number two trick is to treat yourself like a baby. We have got a strong idea about how rituals and routines and habits are so critical for babies and young ones but we forget about that for grown ups. That is a problem with the holidays in that we are doing things at odd hours. We are delaying our meal times. We are staying up late. We are sleeping in later. So maintain your schedule. Keep your schedules and your habits as tight as they are normally and you will do a lot better through all of it.
Next tip is be nice to your liver. For many alcohol is totally fine. They have a few servings so no big adverse affects but many are quit sensitive to it. In terms of health we thought in the past that alcohol made our heart stronger and made us healthier but the data now has shown that it really does not. There is no safe amount for the brain. Every amount we have regularly does literally kill the brain cells and reduce the brain volume so go easy on that. The other thing about the liver is that sugars and sweet things affect it pretty strongly. Try baking your favorite dishes and change xylitol for sugar. Make the same batch of cakes or cookies or holiday treats that you would otherwise just with xylitol as the only change. You will be amazed that the taste and texture is identical or 99% identical and its so close that no one would even notice that. Sugar is so hard on the liver and such a big strain there. What happens is that when your liver is strained or affected you can not control your blood sugar and your stress hormones get higher and higher and higher.
The other trick is to try and chill out. What I mean by that is that we are actually healthier when we are not in the same temperature all the time. We work so hard to have climate control in our homes, in our cars and where we work. Now I am from Northern Minnesota so you would die if you did not have things like that but we need to have some temperature fluctuation and especially in the winter time. So when we have less temperature fluctuation our bodies get locked into this storage mode. We gain weight easier and our immune systems get weaker. So how do you fluctuate the temperature. If you have got a heat at night which most places do in the winter do not heat quit as much. Let the temperature drift down maybe five or ten points then you normally would otherwise at night. Even if you are bundling up in bed in blankets because of that just being exposed to the cold will help your immune system and help your metabolism.
Some other cool tricks no pun intended when you are showering just do a blast of warm rather then hot or even get brave and do some cold for a few seconds. Make that a habit each time your in. That will revitalize your nervous system and keep your metabolism strong. Especially in the winter that cold shock response raises endorphins, it lowers stress hormones and it lowers your body pain threshold so you feel so much better in a lot of ways and it is an easy easy way to do it. Another cool trick you can do is put on a pair of wet socks before bed. Funny thing but thin cotton socks wet put them on and then wool socks over the top. That also helps your body stay in a better metabolic state.
Last big thing is to think about the rainbow and colorful foods. During the winter our body is going into a process of trying to fix a lot of old free radical damage and you really need things that have good building blocks and good anti-oxidants and good Anthocyanins to really do that repair well. Those are the parts of the food that stain. What are the best ones?
Well pomegranates are so powerful. You know I am not a fan of juice or fruit juice in general but I got to say that I do bend the rules just for pomegranate because they are seasonal and you can not always get them. Also as much I love them they are a lot of work to get into I have to admit. Its a lot of work to pull apart a pomegranate and get all those little fibrous stuff off of the seeds. The fibrous yellow stuff in pomegranate that is used for killing parasites and it actually hurts the bacteria of your intestinal tract so you do want it out and pomegranate juice does avoid that. Even an ounce per day can make a huge difference on the quality of repair of your connected tissues.
Another great thing is good old carrots. You know we do not think about them enough and I think they have kind of gotten a bad rap from the Glycemic index. Yes they have a type of glucose that quickly hits the bloodstream but the quantity of it is so low they have no bad affect upon our blood sugar so the Glycemic load is fine. So carrots are great and they are so rich in some Alpha, Beta and also some more exotic Carotenoids. They are the perfect remedy for the bad effects of being in the dark and indoors and in climate control all the time. Always have some good organic baby carrots in the refrigerator for snacks. They are the best snacks. Have them anytime. High in fiber and high in other very critical things. They will make your body stronger.
So this holiday season put a little thought into some basic changes and tweaks. Also put some thought into thinking of it as a time of real renewal. You know I love to make goals like what is my goal for today. My goals for the week. My goals for the month and then the year goals are so much fun. You know we talk about New Years resolutions and people are often kind of apologetic like oh its kind of lame or they don’t really work. You would be amazed. I am seen some big studies that show when you write out your New Years resolutions over half of them actually pan out. So that comes back to that half full thing. You can say well I didn’t do half those things. Well no you could do half those things. You can imagine crazy wild things that you would love to pull off or love to see manifest in your life and half of them can come true and maybe even more. So take some time and do some really good goal setting this New Years as its a great season for that.
Know that this holiday can propel your health in the right direction instead of the wrong direction with just a little bit of planning. Thanks for tuning in. Reset your health and reset your life and I can show you how. Dr. Christianson here and I will talk to you real soon.