How To Survive The Holidays

xmas collage

December is a stressful month – perhaps the most stressful of the year. Many of us actually dread it as it approaches. Are you one of those people?

We’re stressed with the task of buying gifts for loved ones: trying to squeeze in the time to shop, trying to avoid the malls and department stores, feeling burdened financially as we rack up credit card bills, and feeling resentful about forced and artificial gift giving. We’ve got a dozen or more social events going on, where we have to smile and make small talk even though we’re so exhausted and would rather be home in jammies. We feel guilty for not working out more, as we find ourselves faced with platters of Christmas cookies, worried about our waistlines. On top of this, in the back of the mind there’s this thought: It’s the end of another year already? How did that happen? What have I actually accomplished this year?!

If you’re nodding your head here, if any of this sounds about right for you, read on.

8 Ways To Survive The Holidays Without Pulling Your Hair Out, Yelling At Your Family, & Feeling Bloated And Tired Every Day

Make sleep a priority

I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times. It’s the simple truth, though, that when you’re sleep deprived you’re less able to cope with all the nonsense that comes at you day to day. You may have less patience, less physical strength and energy, less motivation…you know how it goes. The side effects of sleep deprivation look different for everyone, but the main thing to remember is that without adequate rest, the body cannot repair and renew itself. The adrenal glands kick into high gear, and then eventually burn out. That’s when we need coffee or chocolate to wake us up or keep us going. How can we possibly feel all the holiday joy and magic when we’re so completely exhausted?!

Tips: Get to bed at a decent hour. Avoid artificial light from your TV, computer, or phone before bed. Avoid eating before bed. Engage in relaxing activities before sleep, instead of watching violent or dramatic TV shows (who else is guilty of this?). Sleep in complete darkness, covering up even the light of your alarm clock numbers. Turn your cell phone on Airplane mode. If you can, turn off your home wifi altogether.

Take an adaptogen

I wrote about adaptogens (in particular maca) here. To sum up, adaptogens are herbs that help the body deal with everyday stress. They provide energy without overstimulating the way that caffeine does. Examples include: maca, ginseng, nettle, ashwaganda, rhodiola, cordyceps. Take one for a period of 6 weeks, then take a break for a couple weeks or switch to a different one (none are meant to be taken very long-term). There are also some great adaptogen formulas out there such as this one. As always, though, it can be helpful to get more tailored recommendations from a nutritionist.

Eat your greens

Greens are incredibly grounding. When you’re feeling stressed, hyper, or anxious, look to dark leafy greens: kale, collards, spinach, rapini, chard, dandelion, beet greens. These babies are full of magnesium and B vitamins, two nutrients that are depleted during times of stress. Greens will help you find your balance again. They don’t have to be raw, either. In fact, when you’re stressed, your digestion is compromised and cooked foods are going to go down much more easily. So lightly steam your greens, or lightly saute with coconut oil. Sprinkle with sea salt or pink salt, for an added mineral rich boost (also very grounding!).

Get your digestion on your side

What good are greens (or any food/supplement) if your body can’t absorb them properly? Also, if your digestion isn’t up to par, your body won’t be able to eliminate wastes properly and will hold on to so much shit (literally), leaving you feeling even more stressed, tired, and unwell. Bottom line is, you want your digestion working for you, not against you – especially during periods of stress.

Where to begin? Here are a few basic tips: Drink lemon water every morning. Have a tsp of apple cider vinegar in water 10 minutes before meals (especially good for bloating). Avoid very hot or very cold drinks, and avoid drinking too much with meals. Make and eat fermented cabbage. Consider probiotic, bile, and enzyme supplements. For more a more detailed personal protocol, consult your nutritionist!

Say no to sugar

I probably don’t need to go into the detrimental effects of white sugar on the body, as you’ve heard it all before (dehydration, rapid blood sugar swings and hypoglycemia, diabetes, elevated triglycerides, high cholesterol, mood fluctuations and anxiety, yeast overgrowth, headaches, infections, weight gain, etc). Sugar is extremely stressful for the body. Just cut it out, period. What about Christmas desserts, though? Look for recipes that use things like coconut sugar, dates, honey, maple syrup. Try these cookies here; they’re delicious.

Oh, and alcohol? Be sensible. A nice glass of wine can be relaxing, sure, but limit yourself to one, as it’s taxing for the body to process.

Make homemade gifts

This is a strategy that will help if the consumerism of the season is getting you down. It can be more rewarding to give gifts you make yourself, more fun, and sometimes even cheaper. Get on the interwebs (oh wait, you’re already there) and search around for DIY gift ideas. Here are some off the top of my own head: jars of delicious things like pesto, tomato sauce, fruit spreads, pickles, sauerkraut; knitted things like scarves and hats; beeswax candles; a bunch of awesome music on a CD or USB stick; a compilation of your favourite recipes; homemade soap if that’s your thing. Now obviously these things take time and planning, and you may not be able to do it for everyone on your list. But it’s something to think about! You can always do these things in your spare time, creating gifts throughout the year and saving yourself time later on.

Make time for calming activities

It’s okay not to make it to every Christmas/Hanukkah/Yuletide gathering this year. It’s okay to politely decline, especially if you feel drained just at the thought of it. Instead, do something that nourishes your spirit and calms your mind and nervous system. I recommend things like restorative yoga (aka sleepy time yoga), meditation, or just quietly sitting, reading, breathing, drinking herbal tea, etc.

It’s also okay not to go to the gym or for a run – these activities are actually stressful for the body. Make time for the activities you know will calm you.

Be grateful

Last but totally not least – try to cultivate gratitude. I know we hear it all the time. It may even sound cheesy to you. I really believe it’s important, though, especially during a time of year when we’re flooded with messages to spend, spend, spend and it’s so easy to feel like there’s not enough. Believe me, it’s much more enjoyable and authentic to give gifts with a bountiful, grateful heart, rather than with a mindset of scarcity, fear, and lack.

So here’s what you do: in those moments when you feel worried or stressed about money and gift buying, calmly say to yourself: “I have enough. I have more than enough. I am enough.” Make up your own affirmations on the spot. Ask yourself what you need to hear, and tell that to yourself, so long as it’s positive and serves you overall.

And sometimes, fake it ’til you make it. It works.

I’d like to hear from you – what have you found to be helpful during the holiday season? Leave your comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links throughout AlexJamesWellness.com are affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these affiliate links, I receive a small commission. Please note I only ever recommend products and services that I personally love, and the price remains the same to you whether you purchase via my link or not. Thank you for your support!

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Alex is a Holistic Nutritionist with a passion for helping people realize their full potential. After experiencing ill-effects from vegetarianism, Alex reclaimed her love of meat and adopted an omnivorous, yet truly holistic way of eating and living. She believes healing and balance can be found not just through the foods we eat, but the thoughts we think. Alex has a special interest in the areas of mental health, digestion & gut healing, and weight loss. She is based in Toronto, Canada, but also works with clients internationally via Skype.

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