While some may describe the holiday season as “the most wonderful time of the year” – others may describe it as “the most stressful time of the year”. High expectations, family dynamics, financial challenges, as well as increased alcohol and food consumption can be overwhelming and even FOMO can have you not exactly feeling the holiday cheer. Although the holidays are traditionally a season of giving, the first gift you should give should always be to yourself. They say you can’t ‘pour from an empty cup’ and this remains true over the holiday season.
Naturopathic doctor Joyce Johnson offers us some reminders and tips to help keep the “me” in merry so that we can make the most of this festive season.
GET 7 to 9 HOURS OF SLEEP EACH NIGHT: This is the amount of sleep each night that the National Sleep Foundation recommends. Sleep is necessary for your body to recover from the day’s activities: you repair damaged cells, and your nervous system gets its much-needed recharge. If you have difficulty falling asleep there are some food and nutrients that can help.
Melatonin: helps people to fall asleep faster, sleep longer and wake up feeling alert and refreshed. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, as well as melatonin can be found in supplement form.
Magnesium: can help improve sleep quality, especially in people with poor sleep. Magnesium can also help insomnia that is linked to the sleep disorder restless-leg syndrome. Magnesium-rich food includes spinach, almonds, and bananas.
B Vitamins: Physical and mental stress cause the body to use up more vitamins, especially B vitamins, contributing to stress-related health problems (general malaise, fatigue, and inability to focus). So, if you are feeling stressed and unable to fall asleep, Oatmeal is a good bedtime snack as it is a natural source of vitamin B6 as well as melatonin. It can reduce levels of stress hormones and result in a boost in serotonin, which stimulates a feeling of calmness.
LEARN TO SAY NO & LOOK AFTER YOU: A big reason why we feel stressed over the holidays is that we do too much. Social obligations can quickly become overwhelming. The holidays are supposed to be enjoyed – if you feel stressed, or you are counting the days until the holidays are over, you’re doing too much. Reset expectations with family and friends and be okay with saying no. You want to look forward to the gatherings you are taking part in where you can fully indulge in time and joy!
Also, look at adding some self-care into your routine. One form of self-care is dry brushing – which is not only good for the outside of your body but also the inside. By dry brushing, internally you are helping to rid your body of toxins, while externally you are getting rid of dead skin cells so your skin will look and feel better. Other benefits include calming our nervous system, reducing stress, fighting inflammation, and increasing circulation.
SUPPORT YOUR GUT & LIVER: The holidays can be a time when we have a couple more drinks than normal and eat a bit more indulgent food than our usual fare – giving our gut discomfort and making our liver work overtime. One thing that can help is to eat some probiotic-rich foods (make up a charcuterie board with pickles, olives, gouda & mozzarella cheese) or take a probiotic supplement to help rebuild the healthy bacteria in your gut. Increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. These will help to stimulate your natural detoxification processes and boost liver functioning.
STAY ACTIVE AND ENJOY THE SEASON: The wind is picking up outside and it’s always raining. While it may not seem like the best time to leave your house, you need to remain active Inactivity from being inside over the cooler months causes stagnation of the lymphatic system, slows down our circulation and metabolism and weakens our immune system. Movement causes your body to release endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in your body, similar to that of morphine. Even better – get moving outside – get fresh air in the sunlight for 10-20 minutes per day. Exposure to sunlight instantly boosts mood by increasing vitamin D production as well as helping stabilize serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone.
ENJOY THE SCENTS OF THE SEASON: There is something about the smell of peppermint that can transport us straight to the festive season. From candy canes hanging on the tree to peppermint chocolate, it’s a cool scent reminiscent of the frosty weather outside. However, there is more to the scent than just bringing us happy thoughts. The fragrance is also used to relieve headaches, nausea, stress and some cold symptoms.
Cinnamon is another tasty spice that is usually associated with sweet baked treats and holidays, but studies have shown that the scent of cinnamon helps our body relax and makes us feel less stressed. So, leave your stresses behind by enjoying some peppermint or cinnamon tea, adding some cinnamon to your morning coffee, or using a diffuser with some oils to help you unwind.
Dr. Johnson is a well-respected licensed naturopathic doctor passionate about health and fitness. She focuses on women’s health, endocrine disorders, weight loss, exercise, and pediatrics. She currently trains hundreds of health care practitioners across Canada and the United States each year about various health topics and natural health product issues including diet, supplementation, and integration of pharmacological and natural therapies. Dr. Johnson is also a certified fitness professional and actively trains clients to reach their fitness goals.
An author of five books, Dr. Johnson is a regular guest on TV and radio media outlets throughout Canada and the United States. Dr. Johnson has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows such as: The Marilyn Denis Show, Cityline, Breakfast Television, Global’s Morning Show, CTV’s Morning Live and Noon News, AM Buffalo, and NewDay Northwest among others. In addition, she frequently contributes articles to many well-respected magazines to educate the public about the safe and effective uses of complementary medicine.
Dr. Johnson has a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry, from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. She also holds a certificate in Adult Education from Durham College. Dr. Johnson is a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.