The holidays are upon us! Gifts, good spirits, and beautiful decorations abound. But as jolly as these days can be, they can easily become a little stressful.

Amidst all the love and celebration, finances can be tight, family dynamics may become taut, and wits can become stretched to their tattered ends. For many of us, the tide of the holiday season brings with it a sneaky, powerful undertow of stress. If you don’t want to get dragged out to sea, it’s important to be proactive.

CORTISOL, THE GRINCH OF HORMONES?

Sure, stress may be responsible for your nauseating tension headache at the end of the day, but stress affects more than your overworked head.

Santa Claus sitting on floor and looks frustratedWhen you’re worried, exhausted, irritated, or overworked, your brain sends out a little grumbling stress hormone known as cortisol. When the body is in homeostasis, there are certainly benefits to cortisol. It assists in blood sugar regulation, provides quick bursts of energy in fight or flight situations, and even heightens memory. However, when in consistently high concentrations, cortisol tiptoes through your body on furry, green feet and snatches up neatly wrapped nutrients, causing inflammation in its wake. It blocks the body from attaching to certain nutrients in digestion, and even sucks goodies out of your body’s private nutrient stores. If you’re chronically stressed, all that excess cortisol may be doing steady damage to your health.

Symptomatically, excess cortisol can lead to:

agitation, increased hunger, decreased immunity, hair loss, skin inflammation, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, depression, premature aging, decreased metabolism, increased fat in lower abdomen, and more…

While there is a time and a place for cortisol, we don’t want it surging through our bodies constantly. When that happens, the body falls into an agitated, inflammatory state which promotes disease. But cortisol doesn’t have to be a mean old grinch. Just like a grinch, if you treat your body more kindly and lovingly, cortisol can work for you rather than against. The secret lies in managing your stress so that your cortisol levels ebb and flow naturally.

7 LIFESTYLE TIPS TO MANAGE HOLIDAY STRESS

By managing your lifestyle more mindfully this season, you can better prepare your body for the hectic holidays ahead. Here are a few tips to ensure that you are giving yourself everything you need to stay happy, healthy, and relaxed this season:

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Drink green juice. With cortisol latching on to nutrients and preventing their absorption, it is important not only to reduce stress levels, but also to replenish your nutrient stores. Drinking low-sugar green juices can provide support by filling your body with plenty of living nutrients, especially after a night of festivities or a stressful work day. For some great, low-sugar recipes for you and your loved ones, take a peek at Sproutman’s Power Juices and Super Drinks. In the meantime, don’t forget your daily wheatgrass!

Get some sleep. Your body can’t regulate anything if you’re not getting enough sleep. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours a night regularly. This allows your body to rest, heal, and replenish after a long day and promotes hormonal balance. If you have trouble falling asleep, try the meditation technique known as progressive muscle relaxation to refocus your mind and deeply relax your body at bedtime.

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Nourish your body. The holidays are a time of eating delicious yet mostly nutritionally empty foods. Make a conscious decision to eat living, nourishing foods daily to keep your organs churning properly throughout the party season. What kinds of living foods you ask? Sprouts! Sprouting grains, beans, and seeds makes them more bioavailable and nutritionally dense. They can also support your liver in processing excess hormones (including cortisol), which can become imbalanced during stressful times.

Limit sugar. As they say, STRESSED is DESSERTS spelled backwards. Look, no one is going to blame you for indulging in a few too many cookies at that holiday party. But, in your day to day, avoid hopping on that raging sugar caboose. If you notice a grumpy hankering for the hard, sweet stuff in mid afternoon, that is a sure sign it’s time to cut back on your sugar intake. Instead, opt for some cleansing raw veggies. Drink a green juice. Have a detoxifying glass of water with lemon. You’ll feel more balanced and relaxed if you limit your daily sugar intake. Plus, your body will function better and that warm holiday cookie will taste so much better when you do decide to enjoy it.

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Move your body. We all like to move it, move it, but as winter’s shorter days creep upon us, there is a tendency to become more sedentary. While overexercising can increase your body’s stress load, moving and working your body every day is essential for proper circulation, immune function, and hormonal balance. Don’t let winter get you down. Keep up a gentle yoga practice through the winter to keep up your strength and mobility while also supporting healthy stress levels.

BREATHE. If you’re stressed, don’t reach for the cocktail just yet. Give your body what it needs—oxygen. Practice deep, conscious breathing each morning and night. Deep, calming breaths signal to the nervous system that it can chill out and work on healing.

Take a tech break. Technology may be the number one cause of our increase in modern stress. Email, phone calls, texts, social media—they’re incessant! Do yourself a favor and unplug for a day, an afternoon, or even an hour. Go for a walk outside and remember how it feels to live in the physical moment… without staring at a screen. Seriously, your poor eyes!

And don’t forget to have fun and do things you love once in a while. You deserve it, and nothing quells stress better than a little self-love and compassion. The holidays should be a time of love and joy for all. Be healthy and happy this holiday season, and don’t let stress get you down–no one likes a grinch.