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Surviving the Holidays: 3 Keys to Healthy Body, Mind & Heart

surviving the holidays

I look forward to the holidays every year. Time spent with family, the spirit of giving, tidings of great joy, and that look of pure wonder in my daughter's eyes. Wondrous images come to mind when I think of the holiday season.

Then, right around this time every year, the idealist's amnesia starts to clear, and reality hits me like a ton of bricks! I remember that this “magical” season also brings tension-filled family gatherings, awkward office parties, grueling travel, overeating, and overspending.

Geez, the holiday stress is enough to knock the tinsel right off your tree, isn't it?

A few years ago, I decided to be honest, get real, and make a plan. I want my daughter to experience all the joy the season can bring, and she can't do that if Mom's exhausted, stressed out, or sick. I'm sure you can relate, can't you?

So here are my 3 keys to holiday health. Here's hoping they will help you experience more joy and less holiday stress this season.

Key #1: Take Care of Your Second Brain (your gut) to Prevent Holiday Stress

The gut has been called “the second brain” because most of our body's serotonin, aka the “feel good” neurotransmitter, resides there. [1]

A healthy gut helps bring peace and calm… and it boosts your body's natural defenses. To keep your gut from going crazy and lessen the holiday stress: [2]

  • Minimize sugar. It feeds the bad bacteria in your gut and can make you a sitting duck for viruses.
  • Increase your intake of probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, miso, kefir, and other naturally fermented foods. Sorry, wine doesn't count!
  • Give your body an extra boost with a probiotic supplement when you do overindulge (and you will).
  • Eat plenty of fiber and drink plenty of water to keep things moving. Remember, two extra glasses of water for every alcoholic or caffeinated beverage.

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Key #2: Don't Load Up Your Schedule With More Than You Can Handle

A “yes” trend has been going around for a few years now. The idea is that you never say no to an invitation, and therefore you fill your life with exciting new experiences.

That's great advice, in principle, but I would recommend we start a “no” trend during the holidays. It can be liberating and healing to say “no” and recognize that you don't need to please everybody. If an invitation doesn't bring a smile to your face or help you build family traditions you can be proud of, it's okay to RSVP “regrets only” to prevent additional holiday stress. 

Key #3: Get a Good Night's Sleep

Easier said than done this time of year, I know. Here are some ideas to help make it happen:

  • Follow Keys 1 and 2. Too much sugar and trying to be everything to everyone WILL keep you up at night.
  • Unplug your family an hour or two before bed. This means walking away from your home's TV, cell phone, computer, tablet, or other screens. Recent research shows that unnatural light, particularly from bright screens such as an iPad, can mess with our internal clocks and contribute to insomnia. Unplugging well before bed will help relax the mind and body.
  • Take a few moments to release the day. I like to do this through journaling. I write down the day's victories, slip-ups, blessings, dreams, and goals. This brings peace to my mind and stillness to my heart, which lets my body relax.

Surviving Holiday Stress

So those are my 3 keys of wisdom. You might take a few minutes to ask yourself, what keeps you going this time of year? What keys of wisdom from your own experiences can you add to this list?

Together, they will help you unlock and maintain the true spirit of magic and bring health to your holiday this season.


[1] If you'd like to learn more about this fascinating fact, I highly recommend checking out The Second Brain by Michael Gershon

[2] For some extra help keeping your kid's guts healthy, read Ten tips for teaching your kids to eat healthily.

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