6 supplements for holiday survival and beyond
When we were kids, holiday season was a magical time…
But for many adults today, this end of the year extravaganza is more about the extra work than about celebration. Between the planning, shopping, wrapping, decorating, social engagements and other activities, it’s easy to get exhausted and stressed out.
This doesn’t mean you can’t recapture the joy of the winter holidays. While it may not be possible to moderate your busy schedule, there’s a lot you can do to reduce anxiety and experience the good times.
Starting with the right nourishing stress-relief practices, not only will you enjoy the season more, you’ll also boost your immunity against seasonal illnesses.
Winterize your resistance
The holidays can be a minefield of unhealthy habits. We eat too much sugar, drink too much alcohol (and not enough water), max out on caffeine and lose sleep. Vegetables and exercise seem to hide out in hibernation. So the first step in combatting holiday stress is to make sure you build a good foundation to support your health during this taxing time of year.
Sleep is critical for mental and physical health. Experts recommend 7-9 hours per night for most people. Regular exercise is also an important factor. In addition to mitigating the caloric free-for-all that assaults us every winter, exercise also reduces stress. If the cold weather is keeping you from your regular jog, try indoor exercises like yoga and Tai Chi, both of which are shown to reduce stress, boost immunity and offer other benefits.
Plan nutrient-dense meals to fill you up and keep your will power strong, since low blood sugar makes us more vulnerable to the temptation of unhealthy foods. Emphasize fruits and vegetables, especially the brightly colored ones which have high concentrations of important nutrients and antioxidants. A celery stick with almond butter may not be as exciting as pecan pie, but it’s a much healthier choice for immunity, energy and much more. Even more importantly, eating fruits and vegetables every day has been shown to significantly improve mood.
Mind and body
All too often, we accept anxiety and stress as unavoidable byproducts of our fast-paced, modern lives. However, by taking responsibility for our mental outlook, we can make the right changes to help address these issues.
Many studies show that meditation practice can benefit mood. Regular meditation helps break the cycles of negative thought patterns that are so easy to fall into: We have a bad day; we think about how bad our day was; these thoughts make us anxious; our day gets worse.
Some people have a hard time with meditation because it feels like you’re doing nothing. But in order to reach our inner calm, we need to get past the mental to-do list. Simply taking 10 to 20 minutes to sit quietly and focus your attention on slow, deep breathing significantly reduces stress and improves cognition. It allows us to harness and concentrate our energy in a much more effective manner. If sitting in a comfortable chair and focusing on breathing is too passive, there are alternatives. Moving mediations, such as yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong reduce, focus the mind and improve physical function on numerous levels.
Nutrient-dense foods, adequate sleep, regular exercise and daily meditation can go a long way in controlling stress and anxiety. But sometimes, we need more support. That’s where herbs and nutrients can really make a difference.
Supplement with vitamin D3. Sunlight can be scarce during the winter, depleting our vitamin D reserves. There is quite a bit of evidence that vitamin D deficiency plays a role in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is just another term for the wintertime blues.
B vitamins can also help control stress and depression. One clinical study showed that supplementation with B complex over three months helped people improve mood and reduce stress.
There are a wide variety of herbs that also help combat stress. The Ayurvedic herb Ashwaganda, also known as Indian ginseng, has been shown to reduce cortisol levels for people with chronic anxiety. It also helps control stress, balance hormones and improve cognition.
Two other excellent calming herbs are passionflower and lavender. Passionflower influences GABA, a neurotransmitter which promotes relaxation. Lavender is a wonderful herb that can calm anxiety and act as a sleep aid. The flowers can be used in tea, whereas lavender essential oil is highly concentrated and should only be used externally on the skin (diluted with a base like almond oil), added to a bath, or in an aromatherapy vaporizer.
Another great recommendation is the versatile extract honokiol. An active compound derived from Magnolia bark, honokiol also works on GABA receptors, providing calming mood support. Numerous preclinical studies have demonstrated the significant antianxiety effects of this compound, without side effects. The botanical is also a powerful antioxidant, 1,000 times stronger than vitamin E. In addition, honokiol actively promotes cellular health of the breasts, prostate, lungs and other areas (is reported to shut down tumor growth), and fights inflammation which often occurs after intense exercise.
By creating an anti-stress regimen before the holidays are here, we’re better prepared to rise above the mayhem and enjoy the magical peace that winter can bring. Beyond that, these healthy habits can help us jumpstart the New Year with a stronger foundation for overall wellness and vitality. And that’s something to celebrate!