The holidays are coming which means lots of things, good and bad. The good: time with family and friends, giving to others, good food, fun experiences, and great memories made. The bad: the stress of it all, family and friends, feeling pressures to keep up with the facade the media and business has perpetuated about the holidays, and good food.
I’m sure we could add more to both the good and the bad list, but did you notice things like family, friends and food showed up on both lists. This is because they can contribute to both extreme joy and health, but for some they’re stressful, traumatic and straight up unhealthy.
In fact, emotional turmoil can be more toxic than anything in the environment and wreak havoc on your gut and immune system. This is why there’s an uptick in cardiovascular events and strokes at this time of year. This is also the perfect scenario to catch a cold or the flu.
The best way to avoid this is to have a plan.
To avoid stresses try some of these tips:
- Plan your budget and stick to it. Finances are one of the biggest stressors at this time of year.
- Plan your meals. If you have eczema, gut issues, or autoimmunity, this is essential. Ask hosts in advance of plans and let them know you have special needs. Offer to bring a few dishes that work for you and you can share with others. Better yet, host a dinner or party yourself and show everyone that eating your way can be delicious (it’ll be your gift to them).
- Say no to events that will cause you unnecessary stress. There is no rule that says you have to go to everything you’re invited to (this includes family). Politely decline and wish them a happy holiday.
- Invite only who makes you happy… even if it’s your family member you’re excluding. I’ve gotten to the point where my health and the health of my family are more important than the feelings of a mean spirited family member, so we don’t invite them. We have a rule: you must play well with others. If you don’t, you’re not welcome. Some may feel this is harsh, but sometimes said family member learns a lesson and is nicer. Sometimes they don’t. They point is that you and your family aren’t victim to someone else emotional bullying or games.
- Plan for down time, naps and rest. There’s a reason why nature slows down at this time of year and we should follow suit. Relaxation helps support a healthy immune system.
- Have fun and laugh a lot! Again, great for your immune system and mental outlook.
- Make sure you get enough sleep (most of the time, anyway). Holiday parties, shopping, and events can last late into the night, Pay attention to your body and listen when it says it’s time to shut down.
- If you have kids, pay close attention to them. Sometimes the holidays are stressful for them, but they don’t tell us or have the words to convey it. It’s our job as parents to observe and look for signs such as acting out, behaving in an unusual way, or isolation to clue us in.
I hope you find some of the tips helpful in navigating the amazing, yet stressful time of year.
On the same note, check out the article on Addressing Emotions in Kids to Prevent Eczema and Autoimmunity. Emotional health and good emotional intelligence are essential to long term health. The foundation is set in childhood (even in utero) and has lifelong effects. Let’s help our children avoid the epidemic of chronic disease we’re seeing today.
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and fun Thanksgiving!!!
Question of the month:
Q: How do I maintain my diet during the holidays and will it affect me if I cheat?
A: We hate to place labels or stigmatize food, but the truth is that sometimes dietary modification is necessary for healing. Even during the holidays (where it may be more important!).
For anyone that has ever worked with us, you know our philosophy is to only do necessary dietary restrictions for the shortest period of time and then expand the diet again. If this happens to occur during the holidays there are ways to navigate it.
Planning your food as mentioned above is key. This involves contacting hosts or even restaurants to find out what the menu offerings will be. Most restaurants now a days will accommodate dietary restrictions, especially if you will let them know in advance. And, contrary to what most people believe, most hosts are understanding as dietary needs as well. Some will go so far as to provide menu offerings that suit you (when I host a gathering I reach out to the invitees to find out if there are any dietary restrictions ahead of time). If they don’t do that, you can always offer to bring some dishes yourself to share to make sure you have something to eat.
Keep your home pantry stocked with foods that you can eat for impromptu gatherings. I also recommend making some food ahead and placing it in the freezer to avoid last-minute scrambling to make special dishes or “having” to eat something outside of your special diet.
Grocery stores are more frequently carrying gluten, dairy, nut, and soy free products making it easier for you to pick up something on the fly as well. Just be sure to read labels.
And the “cheating” conundrum…. First, I hate to use the word cheating because that implies you’re doing something wrong. Let’s be clear- while you’re definitely not doing something wrong, you may be doing something that does not promote health in your body at the time. For some, if you are on vacation or holiday, and you indulge in something that is not on your current menu, it may not affect you at all. For others however, that same indulgence may tip the scale toward an inflammatory cascade. So much of it depends on your stress levels and gut integrity. The more stressed out you are feeling, the more likely is that you’ll experience symptoms from eating foods that are potential triggers for you.
Try your best to avoid items that you know can cause issues. Remember that the holidays are a relatively short blip in time when compared to the rest of the year. They will soon be over and you’ll still be on your journey to vibrant health.