The holidays are creeping closer and closer and that can be both exciting and stressful at the same time. Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year and something I get very excited for. Among other things, I love the cozy sweaters, the hot apple cider, the decorations and getting to spend time with my wonderful family. For me that excitement masked itself as stress when I was younger and you could find me sick on the couch many years in a row...Typical Karen!
December is not a typical month for most of us with a different routine, stressing about the perfect gift, travelling and/or overindulging in cookies or festive drinks. All these things create a similar reaction in our body. Cytokines are released, which stimulate cortisol, our stress hormone from our adrenal glands, and other immune cells to ward off inflammation and infection. Then when cortisol crashes (for me that was Christmas morning!), our immune system shuts down, giving way to potential colds and flus. Don't get caught in this trap by including some of the suggestions below into this holiday month to stabilize your stress response.
- Hydrate: The low humidity and dry air inside makes us more prone to dehydration. We also tend to be running around and forgetting to drink. Keep those mucus membranes moist by drinking 8 ounces of water every 1-2 hours. I suggest keeping a water bottle in your car at all times. Try adding lemon juice and sea salt to nourish those adrenals.
- Massage: Studies have shown that a massage lowers your stress hormone while boosting white blood cells, helping to fight off any germs that come your way. There are great RMTs at my clinic in Dartmouth. Treat yourself this month :)
- Sleep: Adequate sleep also stabilizes cortisol, improves your immune system and decreases inflammation. Aim for around 7-8 hours a night. Tired when your kids go to bed? Maybe your body is telling you something.
- Laugh: Laughter has been shown to boost your immune system for a least 24 hours. Have a funny uncle coming for christmas, perfect! Enjoy quality time with people you love. They are likely to make you smile.
- Exercise: With the colder months and our busy schedules, I understand this is something that we tend to leave out. Less vigorous exercise like walking, helps to moderate stress. Walking can be very nourishing and gets you outside. Why not plan a big walk with the family christmas or boxing day? A good opportunity to wear those new gloves.
- Indulge smart: Yes, Quality Street chocolate and egg nog only come out once a year, but that doesn't mean you have to go overboard. Simple carbohydrates, like sugar, flood your blood stream quickly suppressing white blood cells. So think smart, and leave that second cookie or piece of peppermint bark for your sibling. (Now I'm getting hungry...)
- Gut health: Your gut associated lymphatic tissue, or GALT, is a large part of your immune system that resides in your gut. Eating smart by taking time for meals, not overeating, prepping your digestion with lemon water or taking a probiotic are all great ideas to support your immune system. Hosting a potluck? Try making suggestions on what guests can bring to ensure a balanced and health meal.
All in all, enjoy time with family and friends, be safe, and I'll see you in 2016!!
In health & happiness,
(Photo credit: http://weekendroady.com/2012/12/21/the-real-whoville/)