This holiday season is a great time to experience much-needed light, laughter and celebration amidst the craziness of 2020. However, this excitement can also bring stress, especially in these uncertain times. Here are a few tips to help combat feelings of anxiety to have the productive and positive holiday season we all deserve.
Harness the holiday cheer. While it is common to eat, drink and be merry during these months, it may be beneficial to limit alcohol use this year. Online alcohol sales have increased exponentially compared to last year. What used to be a social custom is now helping many people cope with stress and isolation. Alcohol acts as a depressant to the nervous system, disrupting the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters which affect neurological, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function. While it may provide a temporary calm, it can increase anxiety and depression, weaken your immune system, increase the duration of illness, increase the risk of pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome and worsen sleep quality. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that one drink for women and two drinks for men per day is considered moderate drinking; less than that would be considered light drinking. Limiting alcohol intake for your health this year may be the best way to go.
Spread out the family gatherings. With more virtual celebrations happening this year, instead of one gathering with your family, celebrate for a couple of weekends to get more quality time together. Set a time to meet weekly to talk to your loved ones. Schedule virtual gift exchanges, ugly sweater parties, play charades or even cook together; the possibilities are endless. We are lucky to be in a time with advancements in technology that allow us to connect while being safe.
Be mindful. Everyone has heard of mindfulness, and I will be the first to say that it is easier said than done. However, there is no substitute for it. Before the pandemic, when your time was filled with busy tasks and social gatherings, it was easier to ignore the need for mindfulness. During this holiday season, being mindful will be a great way to find joy. Become more mindful in your thoughts and words and try to be in the present moment. It is always harder to go inward than to observe the bustle of everything around us, but this year, use that to your advantage.
Support your stress soldiers. Lastly, support the small but mighty adrenal glands, which secrete hormones that allow our bodies to respond to stress. When we are constantly stressed, these little warriors get tired and can give out. Ways to support your adrenal glands include nutritional medicines, herbs, and you guessed it, mindfulness. Water-soluble vitamins like B and C also help to support adrenal function. You can find these vitamins in whole foods or in higher doses through supplementation. Herbs that support our body’s ability to adapt to stress include passionflower, chamomile, tulsi and licorice root. These adaptogens can be taken as an extract or made at home as a tea. Talk to your doctor to find the best adrenal support individualized for you.
Put your health first, and have a happy and healthy holiday season!
Dr. Patel is a primary care naturopathic doctor and resident at Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. She can be reached at (760) 771.5970 or www.LiveWellClinic.org.
Sources: 1) https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body; 2) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html; 3) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/stress-coping/alcohol-use.html; 4) Health risks and benefits of alcohol consumption. Alcohol Res Health. 2000;24(1):5-11.; 5) Pollard MS, Tucker JS, Green HD Jr. Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(9):e2022942. Published 2020 Sep 1. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.22942; 6) Sarkar D, Jung MK, Wang HJ. Alcohol and the Immune System. Alcohol Res. 2015;37(2):153-155.