4 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

Posted on November 12 2021

Sometimes we are gifted with not so joyful moments during the holidays—crowds, unwarranted feedback from relatives, and stress—to name a few...  

So, we sat down with Dr. Dave Gordon, MD, to talk top holiday stress tips 

“Each year, you work to stay healthy and keep your immunity strong. Then the holidays come, and everything falls apart. Inevitably you get sick, often with back-to-back infections. Being sick makes it even harder to keep up healthy behaviors that are already a challenge during the holidays like getting sufficient sleep, eating nourishing foods, and exercising. This cycle often repeats year after year and many just ‘power-through’ and make plans to get back on track after New Year's. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. By being proactive, you can keep your immunity strong, avoid the infections, and actually thrive during the holiday season,” explains Dr Dave.  

Here are 4 ways to manage stress and keep yourself healthy during the holidays, courtesy of Dr. Dave:  

1. Balance your cortisol levels 

Cortisol is a naturally-occurring stress hormone in your body. For most people, everything about the holidays spikes their cortisol and results in higher levels of stress.  

“When exposed to stressors, our body cranks up our fight-or-flight response and turns on our adrenal glands which make cortisol, our stress hormone. A little stress and a little cortisol is actually good for us and makes us more resilient. However, when it’s constant, our adrenals keep pumping out cortisol and it’s too much, like a bucket overflowing with water,” says Dr Dave. The following tools can help to reduce the stress in your bucket and keep it from overflowing:  

  • Eat more colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy oils (olive and avocado). 
  • Spend time in green space. This includes both forests and city parks. 
  • Establish a daily breathing or meditation practice. As little as 5 minutes per day helps. 
  • Use botanicals like Ashwagandha to calm you and balance cortisol levels. 
  • Use CBD to support your endocannabinoid system which keeps your body in balance and out of an unnecessary fight-or-flight response. 
  • Get sufficient healthy sleep every night, which might mean adding melatonin or Elixinol’s Calm Stress Support capsules to your daily wellness routine. 

Try to make one meal a day count! Ensure that at least one meal a day is packed with nourishing foods like colorful vegetables, nuts, seeds, quality protein, and healthy oils. That same meal should avoid any alcohol, added sugars, food coloring and preservatives, breads & pastas, or processed oils (corn, soy, sunflower, safflower). 

2. Maintain your gut health 

Did you know that the gut is referred to as the second brain? Our gut plays a key role in fighting certain diseases and in our overall mental health. 

“We have lots of organisms living in our gut that help regulate immunity, mood, and weight. Minimizing sugar and alcohol is crucial but sometimes hard to do during the holiday season. Consider supporting your microbiome with pre-biotics, probiotic foods, or supplements,” explains Dr. Dave.  

Ginger is another great botanical to work into your diet for strong gut health. “Ginger helps food breakdown and move it through our system more effectively. Our gut is healthier when this happens.”  

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3. Exercise 

Dr Dave suggests exercising early in the day whenever possible. “Commit to 10 minutes of movement every morning. That amount is doable so you can make sure it happens. You’ll find that you often end up doing more which is even better.” 

Here are a few exercise ideas for the family 

  • Go on a morning walk together  
  • Gamify the exercise by coming up with prizes  
  • Create an indoor obstacle course  
  • Turn up the music and dance it out  
  • Make TV commercials into fitness breaks 

 4. But don't over exercise.. 

It is just as important an activity to relax during the holidays according to Dr. Dave. Relaxing helps reduce the spikes of cortisol (that stress hormone) in your body.  

“Breathing exercises, meditation, and getting out in green space is great. Add calming herbs like Ashwagandha to your daily routine. Journal daily, especially things you’re grateful for,” says Dr. Dave. “Bring extra supplements for relaxation, sleep, and quick-acting effects to reduce anxiousness.” 

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“Success always starts with a plan,” explains Dr Dave. “Start your plan now and begin implementing these tools to make your holidays feel like a real vacation. Even better - continue these steps after your return and live the healthy and vibrant life you deserve.