It's that time of year again when patients come in STRESSED to the max. Each year, I watch as my patients - disheveled, broke, and tired - come in for help managing stress, diet, immune health, anxiety, and depression. Winter is already the perfect storm for feeling blue and getting sick; we exercise less, get less sun, less fresh air, eat poorly, and are burdened with the stress of "the most wonderful time of the year."
Each year I wonder:
I think most people would answer Yes. That it's all worth it to have that ideal holiday we've recreated from our childhood memories. Studies show that women are more likely to experience holidays blues, because we are usually the ones taking on shopping, party planning, card-writing, etc. While I remember my Mom - a single Mom - being so stressed out that we were tip-toeing around her by Christmas, I remember more just how special she made it, just how much she went out of her way to spoil us on that one day of the year. Most people consider it worth it despite the potentia l agony of the season.
So, how to buffer yourself from this crazy time of year?
Depression & Anxiety: If you are feeling blue, please know that you're not alone! And you're not a Scrooge if you don't enjoy December - you are reacting normally to societal expectations that are not normal. Thankfully, most people do not overeat, overspend, and overplan year-round, so remember that this crazy time of year is temporary. If you are having a hard time with lack of daylight, consider using a sunlamp, which studies have shown help not only with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but also with routine Depression. Recognize when your Depression or Anxiety is too much to handle alone. Psychology Today has a great search tool for finding a therapist near you and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 / 7: 1-800-273-8255.
Diet: Eat 3 meals per day during this time to aid in balancing your blood sugar. Blood sugar spikes and crashes, such as what our bodies go through when we eat too many carbs, can contribute greatly to fatigue and mood issues. Make a game of balancing out the sweets: for every cookie, eat a handful of nuts, veggies, or protein to help prevent a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash. Drinking plenty of water can help flush out the toxins of bad food and too much eggnog and helps in preventing colds and flus.
Exercise: Don't forget to move a bit. Walking around the mall counts! Can't afford a gym membership? Work out at home with videos on YouTube or other free sites. I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube for short relaxing yoga videos.
Acupuncture: People who get it regularly come to crave Acupuncture for the deep relaxation it can provide. Acupuncture reduces stress and helps regulate mood and sleep. We offer Acupuncture at our office and talk more about its benefits in this article.
Finances: Consider making home-made gifts, limiting your gift-exchange to just the most important members of your family (partner, parents, kids), or bartering.
Supplements: This section could go on infinitely, but I've included just a few supplements for managing stress and mood: