Most of us love Christmas – it really is a wonderful time of year – however the pressure of getting everything ready on time and of course the school holidays, can be overwhelming, which in turn can lead to additional stress!
Managing stress levels is vital for our health, as chronic stress has been connected with depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems and even diabetes and heart disease.
Whether your stress is ‘real’ or ‘perceived’, it creates the same response in the body. A flow of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones flood your system, raising your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, making blood more prone to clotting, harming the brains memory, disrupting sleep patterns and increasing fat stores around your middle.
As a registered nutritional therapist, here’s how I would suggest you keep your stress levels under control this Christmas:
- Breathe and take time for yourself. Even a few minutes a day of mindful breathing (deep, slow, full breaths) where you try and train yourself to watch and then let go of any negative thoughts can have a profound affect on your stress response. There are some really good Apps available, which can lead you through the process (e.g. Headspace) and are renowned to help manage anxiety, improve sleep and even sharpen concentration.
- Move. The best way to burn off stress hormones is to exercise. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s vigorous and gets you sweating.
- Magnesium, nature’s tranquiliser. Relax in a bath of Epsom salts and eat magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy veg, avocados, sesame seeds and spinach.
- Sleep. Lack of sleep also increases stress hormones so try get in your 8 hours a night.
- Eat regularly. Skipping meals may seem like the smart thing to do with so much Christmas overindulging, however erratic eating can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels, which in turn can lead to the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. Try stick to three balanced meals a day, and if needs be two healthy snacks in-between.
- Alcohol. Avoid excess consumption, as we all know that alcohol is quickly metabolised to sugar, which can lead to sleep disturbances and blood sugar fluctuations and weight gain – both of which can trigger stress hormones from the adrenal glands.