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Surviving Holiday Stress & Blues

By Mitch Kennedy, ND

The holidays can be a stressful time, requiring us to do more, uphold social obligations, and deal with people's expectations of us and what the holidays mean.  All this can stir emotions, and tax our energy levels.  When we are the most tired, and emotionally on edge we're also the most likely to get sick.  Here are a few tips on how to handle the stress and emotions of this time of year.

Create a plan and stick to it. If you're one of the many people who must visit all your relatives in one day, spend some time to plan out not only your route, but  the amount of time and all the needed preparations for the journey.  Don't forget to schedule time for yourself.  This includes adequate amounts of sleep, and any morning, afternoon, or evening relaxation time you might need.  Keep in mind that arriving stressed out and in a bad mood is worse than arriving late, or sometimes not at all.

Take a B-complex vitamin with every meal.  In response to stress and busy schedules, our bodies use up cortisol.  This is the primary stress hormone created by the adrenal gland.  The B vitamins, namely B-6, are intimately involved with the creation of cortisol in the adrenal gland.  These water-soluble vitamins are readily used up by the adrenal gland when we are stressed.  Interestingly enough, a lack of B vitamins can also contribute to depression, insomnia and sugar cravings.  I always council my patients to  spend extra for a high-quality  B-Complex that comes either as a liquid or a capsule.  Your body will be able to extract the vitamins more readily and completely than a hard tablet, before the pill passes through your digestive system. 

Bring digestive enzymes with you. Some people choose, consciously or otherwise, to stuff their emotions by stuffing their face with food.  Following this kind of binge, people usually feel worse.  In addition, holiday meals are often filled with things we may only eat once or twice a year.  Our digestive systems may not appreciate our overindulgence in these rarities.  To avoid stomach upset, gas, bloating and general malaise, consider taking a digestive enzyme after your largest meal.  These enzymes are the same as created in the body, and provide a little extra digestive power for times when we over eat, or eat overly rich foods.  Your physician can suggest an appropriate digestive enzyme supplement for you, or you can find your own at the health food store.

Stay grounded and centered.  Many family gatherings dredge up old memories, or create emotionally tense situations.  The choice to react to a given situation is entirely yours.  One can choose to be mindful, centered and grounded like a Zen master, or fly into a rage, a wild manic episode, or other emotional outburst.  Techniques to maintain your center include those taught in all martial arts disciplines, yogic breathing practices, and meditative postures or affirmations. 

One of the easiest ways to stay grounded is to pay attention to your own body and its moment by moment needs.  Checking in with yourself frequently, asking is there anything I need?  Am I hungry?  Am I thirsty?  Do I need a breath of fresh air?  Or do I need to stretch my legs?  Probably the most important question you can ask is, am I still breathing?  Often times in stressful situations we stop breathing and hold our stress and tension in our chest, shoulders, neck and back.  A simple deep inhalation and slow exhalation can release a vast amount of tension.

Consider a Homeopathic Remedy. For acute stresses many people find some relief with Bach’s Rescue Remedy.  This is a homeopathic preparation of flower essences designed by Dr. Bach to calm the nerves. Half a dropper under the tongue is the usual dose.

Homeopathy is a great medical tool for emotional and psychological healing.  Conventional doctors with homeopathic certification (MDH) and Naturopathic Physicians (ND) licensed to practice homeopathy can assist you in resolving long held patterns of grief, depression, anxiety, or unique, seemingly inexplicable physical symptoms.  The resolution of these patterns can lift years of accumulated emotions and help restore your health and contentment with life.

Give yourself a healthful gift.  The holiday season is perfect time to pamper yourself.  Rewarding yourself for surviving the gauntlet of social obligations and extra demands on your time validates your effort and gives you time to unwind.  Schedule yourself for a massage, a day at a spa, or something simple like a hot bath and a good book.

Dr. Mitch Kennedy, a licensed naturopathic physician, treats people who have been unable to find help from, or are disappointed with conventional medicine.

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