Lifestyle Medicine & Wellness Blog

Manage Your Holiday Stress

The holidays are nearly in full swing and this time of year can sometimes come with added stress and reaching for comfort foods as a coping mechanism. You may get some digestive upset, but it might not even be that you are overeating at all. Did you know that when we are stressed, we are actually physiologically not meant to eat? Blood flow to the stomach gets reduced and digestion gets interrupted and that lack of blood flow can not only affect digestion, but it can induce stomach damage as well!

Try lowering your levels of stress chemicals (catecholemines) with a simple breathing exercise this holiday season to help increase blood flow to the stomach and to counter your holiday stress.

Inhale for a count of 4 through your mouth. Hold that breathe for a count of 6. Exhale through your nose for a count of 7.  Repeat several times.  This tempers the stress response by resetting your calming parasympathetic nervous system!

Here are some other daily strategies to get through the holidays while tempering your stress!

1. Exercise!  Or at least get out and get regular movement in!  Our bodies are meant to move, and studies show that just 10 minutes of exercise decreases depression and anxiety and elevates mood more than a medication!  I recommend setting a goal of 30-60 minutes a day during the holiday season!

2.  Meditation!  If you haven't tried meditation yet, set a goal to begin a meditation practice this season.  Meditation can take you out of the thinking brain and actually change brain waves and frequency, which can have huge health benefits including lowering the stress response and inflammation in the body. One way to get started is to download an app onto your phone that has short guided meditations and work to schedule it in every day.

3.  Get outside in nature! Research shows this can raise levels of the calming neurotransmitter, GABA  which can help to counter those elevated catecholemine levels!  Ten minutes in the morning sunshine changes your mood and also resets your circadian rhythm body clock!

4. Get good sleep!!  Restorative sleep is critical for healing and rejuvenation!  A recent study just showed that during sleep, the brain's neurons go quiet and blood flows out of the brain.  Then the brains cerebrospinal fluid pulses through the brain, essentially washing the brain like an anti-aging carwash.  Set a regular bedtime and follow good sleep hygiene like sleeping in a dark, cool, room and cutting out electronics a few hours before bedtime.

5. Eat the colors of the rainbow! Work to get in your 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies a day!  Yes, eating healthy is still a part of the picture!!  Organic fruits and vegetables are high in anti-oxidants which are anti-inflammatory.  Lowering your inflammation also lowers the allostatic stress load on the body!

6.  Stay hydrated!!  It is so important for so many functions in the body to stay hydrated!  Dehydration causes symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, tempered detoxification, kidney function, slowed metabolism and more!  Set a goal to get at least 8 glasses of water in a day, and start with one bottle or glass upon rising and before anything else, including your coffee!

5.  Take a warm bubble bath or get a massage regularly.  There's nothing like pampering yourself and letting some one take care of you for a change!

6.  Music and merrymaking!  :)  Stress induces emotions that trigger stress chemicals which trigger stressful feelings which ultimately trigger negative genetic changes in your cells.  Music does the opposite of that and shuts off those negative genes.  You can feel an immediate emotional lift when you listen to music, but consistency makes lasting physiologic changes. Studies have shown that listening to one hour of music a day for six weeks will begin to actually positively change your cell function.  

7. Do something you love!  (and don't feel guilty about it!)  I used to love to read medical mysteries when I was younger.  But the further along I got in my career, the more studying and learning I did to keep up with the explosion of medical knowledge, the less time I spent reading just for the joy of it.  Recently, I got some books and decided that I will read to let down before bedtime each night (as I feel inclined to), without any expectations about how long or how much I read.  I find it is so relaxing and calming that I look forward to it at night, and then fall into a deep sleep easily each night.

Do you struggle with digestive or gut health issues? Did you know that you can have "gut issues" and have no gut symptoms like gas and bloating, cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea?  There are "non-gut" symptoms caused by gut dysfunction and imbalance (leaky gut) such as fatigue, brain fog, skin rashes, itchy skin, myalgias, depression, cognition and memory problems, anxiety, arthritis, lowered immune function and more.  I've specialized in this area for over 15 years and can help you connect the dots between the root causes of your imbalances and your symptoms and then create an individualized functional medicine based program to optimize your health! 

Setup your free informational call to find out more at and lock in your holiday special rates for your New Years program today! 


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