Lauri M. Aesoph, ND
Depression is sometimes a component of the Christmas season for a variety of reasons. Typical responses to the emotional overload of the holiday rush are overeating, overdrinking and generally overdoing.
Depression is sometimes a component of the Christmas season for a variety of reasons. Typical responses to the emotional overload of the holiday rush are overeating, overdrinking and generally overdoing. The best counter solution is to pare away unrealistic expectations and superfluous chores and make room for self-care.
Sleep is often the first health-giving necessity to deteriorate. Yet eight or more hours of quality sleep each night is essential to stay well, especially during busy times. To ensure restful sleep, put all work and stimulating activities (TV, computer, video games) aside at least one hour before bedtime and prepare for sleep with a soothing bathtub soak or sip a relaxing tea like camomile. A dark, cool, noise-free bedroom also helps.
For many, exercise is a four-letter word. Yet squeezing 15 to 30 minutes of physical activity into each day not only shakes off bodily tension, but boosts mood, provides you with valuable reflection time and curbs food cravings. The simplest way to sidestep overeating is to eat regularly scheduled, healthy meals and drink four to eight glasses of water each day. Keep caffeine and soda to a minimum as well. Gorging on cookies and other sweet treats invites fatigue, insomnia and may increase your chance of catching a bug.
Fatty foods, particularly from a hydrogenated source, are fraught with their own health consequences including heart disease and certain cancers. On the other hand, consuming the right amount of the right fats (essential fatty acids) are important for mental health and may alleviate both depression and anxiety. A study from the University of Sheffield revealed that depressed patients were significantly depleted of an essential omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. Essential fats are found in eggs, flax seed, fish, canola oil and walnuts.
Good intentions aside, there will be instances where you may slip off the wagon and overindulge or overdo it. If that happens, here are a few tips to help you regain your equilibrium.
Taking a multi-supplement during the holidays acts as an insurance policy on your health, filling in the nutritional gaps when meals are poor or missing. Foods high in vitamin C (kiwi, broccoli and citrus fruits) and taking a 250 to 500 mg supplement may diminish symptoms due to stress and colds. The B-complex vitamins ensure proper nerve function and may assist you in coping with holiday demands.
Kava (piper methysticum) is a sedative herb that effectively reduces anxiety and stress, according to recent research. Typical kava products contain between 40 and 80 mg of kava lactones and are taken three times daily. One should not take kava for more than three months without medical supervision.
Avoid drinking alcohol or taking tranquilizers while using kava as each will enhance the sedative effects of the other. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while using kava. While side effects are rare, people with Parkinson’s should not take kava as it may oppose the neurotransmitter dopamine (low in people with Parkinson’s). Young children, teens and pregnant and lactating women should avoid this herb.
Overeating and Indigestion
Because peppermint (Mentha piperita) tea is such a common beverage, it’s easy to toss a few teabags into your bag before heading to a gathering. Sipping on this hot (or cold) liquid before or after meals helps prevent the bloating and indigestion that comes with eating rich foods.
Tea made with German camomile (Matricaria recutita) also aids digestion. In addition, these pretty daisy-like flowers contain relaxing compounds, such as apigenin, that help reverse elevated levels of some stress hormones. Camomile is also used for insomnia.
Anise seed (Pimpinella anisum) is an ancient spice used for both culinary and medicinal purposes in Egypt, Greece and India. Chewing this licorice-tasting seed helps reduce the pain of overeating–specifically stomach cramps and gas. It’s thought to work by promoting gastric secretions. As an added benefit, chewing anise seeds sweetens the breath.
The best way to avoid a holiday hangover is to refrain from or to control drinking. However, if the party spirits get the better of you, be sure to drink plenty of water in-between cocktails. Don’t forget to nibble on food. A recent study from the University of Sydney, Australia, showed that food deprivation encouraged more drinking in laboratory rats.
Milk thistle (silybum marianum), known for protecting the liver from toxins such as alcohol, has anecdotally been implied as a hangover preventative. This has not been scientifically proven. However, preliminary evidence indicates that this herb helps dispel free radical molecules produced from alcohol and in turn may prevent liver damage. Vitamin B6 may also dampen hangover symptoms.
The homeopathic remedy Nux vomica helps anyone who has overindulged in food, alcohol and even work. Frustration, irritablity, impatience, alcohol and caffeine cravings and heartburn are all made worse by eating too much food and drinking too much alcohol. Instructions for acute situations such as these are found on homeopathic packages.
The Ten-Minute Holiday
When the holidays become too much, take a mini break and regain your cheer: