As November arrives, it’s hard to ignore the subtle change in our environment. The sun begins to shine, houses start to sparkle, party planning begins, and we begin to anticipate a relaxed final month of the year. While the idea of the Christmas break is exciting, for some, this time of the year can be quite the opposite – all thanks to a little thing called stress.
The modern-day culprit: Stress
Difficult to define, although familiar to so many.
In Naturopathic medicine, stress is considered a cascade physiological process which many people encounter throughout life. Stress may be a result of work, school, major life changes or even exercise.
During times of stress, the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system activate; generating a ‘fight or flight’ response While acute activation of ‘fight or flight’ may be helpful in some situations, consistent activation results in overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, therefore dysregulating homeostasis. As a result, long-term stress may influence;
- Sleep quality and duration
- Food choices
- Digestion & Absorption of Nutrients
- Gut microbiome
- Levels of insulin and glucose
- Mood & Behaviour
While stress can occur at any time of the year, as the festive season approaches, it’s normal for stress to become quite apparent. However, before you become stressed about being stressed - check out my 5-steps below to create a blissful, stress-free festive season.
5 Steps to Manage Stress this Festive Season
1. Condense your to-do list
Whether you’re a list maker or not – I encourage you to try one this year! The act of simply writing things down can free space in your mind, allowing for clearer thinking. The key is to keep the lIst brief and simple (writing a 4-page list is a recipe for stress). I recommended creating a small list of your main priorities to create a feeling of composure, rather than overwhelm.
2. Simplify your meals
Food is well and truly the centre of attention over the festive season, and while it is a great time to experiment in the kitchen, I encourage you to simplify your meals. Planning elaborate meals may lead to increased stress, therefore altering our eating patterns and depleting our nutrients.
When creating your simple festive meals, try adding these foods to further support the nervous system;
- B-Vitamins: Avocado, eggs, legumes, lentils, green vegetables, nuts & seeds
- Vitamin C: Broccoli, pawpaw, capsicum, pineapple, kiwi fruit, strawberries, sweet potatoes
- Magnesium: Almonds, cashews, cacao, leafy greens, figs, eggs
- Essential fatty acids: Linseed oil, seaweed, sustainably caught salmon or tuna
3. Maintain a regular sleep routine
We all know a good night’s sleep can work wonders, although maintaining a regular sleep pattern is a key throughout stressful periods. Stress and sleep interact closely, and with the activation of the HPA axis, our body creates a feeling of wakefulness. Sleep restriction then initiates an irregular circadian rhythm, altering the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. To maintain a regular sleep pattern;
- Setting a regular alarm
- Ensure you get 7-8 hours per night
- Restrict technology use before going to sleep
- Enjoy a chamomile tea before bed
4. Take time out for yourself
Prioritising you is vital. Alongside organisation, diet and sleep, stress may be managed by simply allowing time for yourself. Your mind and body will thank you for it! Ideas include;
- Ocean Swims
- Listen to music or podcasts
- Reading a book
5. Be mindful of your emotions
For most, the festive season is a great opportunity to socialise with family and friends, but for some, this can be the catalyst for stress. This year, it may help to mindfully acknowledge these emotions. Emotions such as stress or anxiety may originate from relationships, diet changes, travel or work. Techniques to mindfully address your emotions include;
- Talking to a friend
- Practising deep breathing
- Seeing to a qualified practitioner
Please refer to these tips throughout the festive season if you need, and I wish you a healthy, joyful festive season.