We’re coming into the most hectic time of the year…the holidays. It starts with Halloween, and it doesn’t stop until the New Year. Between parties, gift shopping, cooking, final exams, school plays and numerous other commitments, our stress levels can easily get out of control.
When stress and anxiety soar, our health habits tend to plummet. We don’t sleep as well, and our gym visits fall by the wayside (until the New Year when the gyms are flooded with all the good-intentioned people with fresh resolutions!). It’s all too easy for our diet to be narrowed down to the “other” 5 food groups: Halloween candy, fruit cake, egg nog, sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie!
So what are some things we can do to manage our stress before our health habits take a nose dive and we spiral into full-fledged holiday depression? Implementing healthy habits is the first step. Check out this post I wrote last spring for a few ideas.
Here are a few specific natural stress remedies and stress-relieving foods to help you keep your cool all the way through the New Year.
NATURAL STRESS REMEDIES
- Adaptogens – These are a family of herbs that help increase resistance to stress, fatigue, insomnia and trauma. Unlike traditional mood-elevating medications, adaptogens are non-toxic, non-habit forming and require no prescription. Adaptogens work not only when you take them, but for a sustained period of time, and they become increasingly active the more your body needs them. At Longevity, our favorite adaptogens are rhodiola rosea (mood, energy), valerian root (sleep, calming the nerves), ashwaganda (stamina, immunity, clarity), holy basil (memory, stress) and ginseng (anxiety, energy). Many of our natural stress formulas and adrenal support supplements contain one or a combination of these herbs.
- Rescue Remedy – This blend of Bach-flower remedies is great when you need to take the edge off your anxiety in a hurry. I’ve been known to take it before an exam, after a frustrating morning commute or even to help me sleep. The nice thing about this product is that you can pick it up at any health food store, it comes in drops, spray and a kids formula, and it’s safe for the whole family.
- GABA – Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) is an amino acid which acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It calms nerve activity, acting as a natural tranquilizer. GABA can help with insomnia and anxiety, and it’s also been shown to improve immunity. You can purchase GABA on its own, and it’s often included in stress-relieving, mood-elevating formulas.
- B Vitamins – This group of vitamins is associated with relief of stress, nervousness and anxiety, as well as cardiovascular support, energy, healthy skin, hair and nails, and immunity. Vitamin B deficiency can often lead to depression symptoms. Unfortunately, many common medications and oral contraceptives deplete our bodies of B vitamins (If you’re on birth control, be sure to take a B complex!). Recently, researchers at Oregon State University found that athletes who lack B vitamins have reduced high-intensity exercise performance and are less able to repair damaged muscles or build muscle mass than their peers who eat a diet rich with B-vitamins (If you’re training for a big event or want more exercise endurance, consider a B complex!).
- 5 HTP – 5-Hydrixytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that helps regulate serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) in the brain and central nervous system. Low serotonin levels are a common side effect of our stressful modern lives, and it leads to issues like depression, headaches, cravings, PMS symptoms and fibromyalgia. Taking a controlled-release 5-HTP supplement can help raise serotonin levels quickly and steadily over a 12-hour period.
- St. John ‘s Wort – This is another one of the classic herbal remedies for mild depression. You can also pick this product up at any health food store, and it’s included in many stress-relieving supplements.
There are tons more natural stress remedies out there, and I’ve just named a few here. Contact me or the Longevity Pharmacy to learn about which one might be right for you!
- Green Tea – This tasty beverage contains L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces anxiety and enhances mood. Green tea not only has a calming effect, but it improves mental alertness. Green tea is also a great antioxidant, meaning it helps the body combat free radical damage to the cells.
- Super Fruits and Veggies – Bulk up on produce items rich in antioxidants and stress-fighting vitamin C. Think berries, citrus fruits and greens.
- Protein, Protein, Protein – I can’t stress enough how important it is to get adequate amounts of protein throughout the day, and especially at breakfast. Don’t let yourself go on a sugar roller coaster, which leads to anxiety, depression and poor mental focus. Animal protein is high in those B vitamins I discussed above!
- Healthy Fats – High-quality fat is the long-burning fuel we need to survive all the end-of-year madness, so don’t be fat phobic! Trans fats are linked with ADD, depression and fatigue. Think almonds, avocados, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, and avoid those fried foods and snacks made with hydrogenated oils whenever you can!
- Whole Grains – High-quality grains are fortified with folic acid and B vitamins that help reduce stress. Avoid white flour and go for grains like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, oatmeal and whole wheat whenever possible.
For more ideas, check out these related posts on mood-boosting and brain-boosting foods! Once again, don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep and regular exercise when it comes to fighting stress during this hectic time of year.
What remedies, foods or healthy habits do you reach for when combating stress? We’d love to hear your ideas!