The holiday season: equal parts extra cheer and extra work. There are gifts to buy, treats to bring to school or the office, decorating to do, and travel plans to make. By the time the holidays roll around, you don’t want to be exhausted by all of the preparations. Here are a few tips to keep you from feeling overwhelmed so you can appreciate time with family and friends and the spirit of the season.
Eating the right food can make all of the difference when it comes to your stress levels. Stress — from holiday mall traffic, to family-related drama — causes your cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol related cravings can vary, but women typically crave sugar and carbohydrates. There are so many sugary treats around the holidays, but eating them all at the same time might not put you in the holiday spirit. Try to pick a few can’t-miss holiday favorites to satisfy the occasional craving, but front load on a protein-heavy breakfast daily so you don’t show up to the land of misfit cookies (otherwise known as the office break-room) hungry. Not only will it help break the stress-cycle, your long-term health will benefit, too.
Berries are high in vitamin C, which is a great stress combater. Blueberries are a particularly good option, due to their high levels of antioxidants. Eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich and healthy fats, like avocados and nuts are also a great way to feel better. Folate-rich foods, like dark leafy greens and fresh citrus fruit are a great pick-me-up.
It’s also important to make time to eat. Even if you’re running out the door for, a healthy and thoughtful meal is possible. Try a protein-packed breakfast (like our Pumpkin Spice protein latte!) to keep you going all day. For more quick but effective breakfast ideas, check out Five 10-minute breakfast hacks. And don’t forget about calming, caffeine-free teas like fennel or peppermint, which will help keep any stress-induced indigestion in check.
Find a workout that is a destressor for you, and start practicing before the holidays get into full swing. Whether it’s a yoga class, spin class, or plugging in your headphones for a 30 minute jog or walk, make it a daily priority to get moving, and don’t let the sugar spike and crash get in your way. If you’re planning a workout, make sure you eat in a way that won’t inhibit your ability to get it done. Try working out in the morning to avoid any mid-day or evening conflicts that will inevitably arise. Think of it as your holiday gift to yourself!
It can be super hard to get into a quality sleep routine during the holiday season, but it is crucial for keeping your stress levels down. Plan out your day, get done what you need to get done in the hours you have, and hit the pillow! Staying away from phones and computer screens an hour before bed can help you sleep better, and if you have eaten well that day, lingering indigestion or bloat shouldn’t be a factor either.
Ready to eat your way to better sleep? Fiber rich foods like chia pudding prevent blood sugar rises lower melatonin, a key factor in healthy sleep. Kiwis and cherries have also been found to be great sleep aiding foods, as well as a steady diet of calcium and magnesium rich foods (get your leafy greens!).
There are unavoidable stresses during the holiday season, but let’s all commit to setting ourselves up for success. If you’re not already a grocery list person, now might be the time to start and help guarantee that there are always healthy food options in the house — when the only fast and easy snack is a holiday cookie or candy cane, chances are you’re going to make less-than-healthy choices. So next time you’re tearing through the grocery store aisles in search of nutmeg for your eggnog, have a list handy filled with the usual healthy options that keep you going strong the rest of the year.
Whatever might bring you stress during the holidays, remember that food can be your ally, not your enemy. Enjoy some favorite holiday treats here and there, but let’s all raise our smoothies and toast to eating for a less-stress season this year.