Surviving Holiday Stress

'Tis the season to be...pressured! Has the holiday stress caught up to you yet? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Exactly how long has your eye been twitching like that? The holidays are supposed to be a time for family, friends, and traditions, but we don't always have the Norman Rockwell experience this time of year. If gifts, wrapping, travel, sick kids, sick pets, work, social obligations and more are causing you to stress out right now, take a deep breath and relax. Stress can have a negative impact on your health.  

Stress Negatively Affects You! 

Immune System

Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, and OSU virologist and immunologist Ronald Glaser have spent over 20 years researching the affects of stress on the immune system. They have found that increased stress leads to an increased risk of infection, and the body's natural ability to heal itself can be slowed or stunted. Kiecolt-Glaser believes stress makes our immune systems less effective by evoking an immune response itself. She says stress causes the body to release pro-inflammatory cytokins, and when this happens over a long time, it hampers our body's ability to fight infection, heal wounds, and increases our risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases like type 2 diabetes or allergies. 

Adrenal System

Dr Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., a contributor to Dr. Oz, says excessive stress can lead to adrenal exhaustion. According to the doctor, sugar cravings, fatigue, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar with irritability when hungry) and low blood pressure with dizziness when standing can be signs of adrenal exhaustion. Teitelbaum says excess stress is the number one culprit. He says you can support your adrenal glands to heal naturally by making sure you have enough vitamin C, and pantothenic acid. 

Vitamin C is critical for adrenal function, and your body's highest levels of vitamin C are found in the adrenal glands and brain tissues. Pantothenic acid is a B vitamin that also supports your adrenal glands, and deficiencies may lead to shrinking of adrenal glands. Teitelbaum also recommends licorice, a herb that slows down the breakdown of adrenal hormones in your body. (Speak to your doctor before starting any herbal or vitamin supplement routines. Licorice should only be taken for a week at a time, and many people should avoid this herb all together.)

Cardiovascular System

According to the American Institute of Stress, the incidence of heart attacks and sudden deaths increases after major stress-inducing incidents, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Stress can damage your heart as stress hormones increase your heart rate and constrict your blood vessels, forcing your heart to work harder and increasing blood pressure.

Premature Aging

Chronic stress can make you look older, and is a major contributor to premature aging. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco discovered that stress shortens telomeres (structures on the end of chromosomes), so that new cells can't grow as quickly. This leads to signs of aging like wrinkles, weak muscles, and poor eyesight. 

Time to De-Stress

So how do you de-stress this time of year, saving your sanity and protecting your health? 


First, if you are stressed out due to an increased amount of obligations or items on your to-do list, try to re-prioritize. There is only one Martha Stewart, and she has a whole team of employees to help her pull off her "perfect" holidays. Don't try to be Martha. Empower yourself to say "no" to the last minute invitations, the parties, and gifts for people you barely know, and to downscale your holiday spending and doing. 


Next, support your health! Be sure to get plenty of exercise. If you have never tried it, why not "gift" yourself with a yoga class and try something new!


Be sure you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

Nutrition Comes First

Skip the cookies, candies, and plates of fudge and be sure you're eating lots of fruits and veggies, full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can keep you healthy. Stress tends to deplete your levels of B vitamins, which can support normal production of neurotransmitters and support normal blood sugar levels. Include foods high in folic acid, like asparagus in your diet. Avocados are also rich in B vitamins and are a source of healthy fats. Acerola cherries, baobab powder and camu camu are fruits rich in vitamin C, to support your adrenal health. If you are struggling with getting a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day, try a green juice or superfood smoothie.

Lots of Water

Lastly, drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated with water will help you stay alert and awake, not to mention looking good! 

With these tips in mind, you will be conquering the holiday season, and not just surviving the stress. 

Melissa Zimmerman, Healthy Goods


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