Boy, the holidays can be one stressful time for people these days. Lots of good cheer seems to come part and parcel with way too much to do, feeling pressure from family and friends, and spending more money than expected.
Ho ho hospital
In regards to your health, getting merry can challenge your emotional well-being and contribute to anxiety and low mood. The holiday overindulgence will also challenge your digestion and overall physical health. In fact, a Tufts University study from 2004 looked at over 53 million people and learned that more heart attacks and heart-related illness occur between December 25th and January 1st(1).
The good news is the holidays can also be a time to re-create a sense of health and healing. Consider the following as options that can make your season a little more merry and bright:
1. Serenity Santa: Try this — every time you see a Santa or hear a jingle bell, take a nice deep belly breath and say to yourself “I am the serenity Santa.” I have used this with a number of my patients over the years — it sounds goofy, but it works to take the throttle down a few notches.
2. sleep in heavenly peace: It is OK to enjoy going out with family and friends, but on the ‘off’ nights, make a commitment to get to bed by 11PM at the latest. A half hour before bed, shut all bright screens (TVs, cellphones, tablets, etc…) and keep the room nice and dark so your brain will secrete enough of the hormone melatonin, which helps you get to sleep.
3. walk in a winter wonderland: Every day, try get out for a little walk and sunshine. Exercise and moving your body is critical for good body and brain health. If you live in a cold climate, exposure to the cold weather will also help kick up your thyroid function and metabolism – so bundle up with some good winter sports gear and get out there anyway.
4. give yourself the gift of digestion: When you sit down to eat that special meal, start with a plate of greens and vegetables first. And then go on to enjoy the rest of the meal. Fiber is a great way to slow down spiking blood sugar and keep insulin levels balanced. Spiking levels of insulin is harmful to your cardiovascular system.
While eating, take smaller bites, and chew and really taste the food and enjoy it, slowly. You will find that when you really taste and enjoy the food, you tend to get satiated, and will eat less and still enjoy without depriving yourself. This will allow you to enjoy just as much, without running for the Tums and acid blockers.
5. roast a few chestnuts over an open fire: Chestnuts make a great in between meal snack. These have some healthy fats, and are a good fiber source too. Roasting brings out the flavor of the nuts, and develops their sweetness. To keep the healthy fats and vitamins fresh, roast them at a low temperature of 170 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. You can spray a little soy sauce or Bragg’s aminos on them before roasting for more flavor too.
6. take a few vitamins with your egg nog: Many of the foods we over indulge in can actually strip our body of valuable vitamins and minerals. Stress can also do the same. Adding a few basics can help cover the holiday bases:
vitamin D: Helps the heart, keeps colds at bay, balances inflammation, and will help keep mood in check. It is best to check your levels if you can with your doctor, but if you cannot, a safe dose would be 1000iu a day, with food. Take vitamin D with food for best absorption.
fish oil: Fish oil is a must for good brain function. Assure about 1000mg of eicosapentoenoic acid (EPA) per day.
multiple vitamin: Find a good quality multiple with plenty of B vitamins. Holiday stress and foods will deplete a body of valuable nutrients, so a little replacement can help.
Have a great holiday — enjoy!
About Dr. Bongiorno: Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc is co-director of Inner Source Health in New York, and author of How Come They're Happy and I'm Not? The complete naturopathic guide to healing depression for good. More about him can be found through www.drpeterbongiorno.com.
1. Phillips DP, Jarvinen JR, Abramson IS, Phillips RR. Cardiac mortality is higher around Christmas and New Year's than at any other time: the holidays as a risk factor for death Circulation. 2004 Dec 21;110(25):3781-8. .