Q: Dear Dr. Jen,
I tend to get really stressed and overwhelmed during the holiday season. Is there anything natural you can recommend to take before the season gets busy?
—R.R., Maple Ridge
With the holiday season in full swing, it can be hard to put ourselves first and prevent the negative side effects of stress. But with a few lifestyle tips and a little supplementation, you can rest assured you’ll have more energy, think more clearly, and dodge the seasonal blues.
- Eat at least 6 servings of vegetables per day: Greens give your body antioxidants to combat oxidative stress, fibre to keep you regular, and minerals (especially magnesium) to maintain calm. For magnesium, eat lots of green leafy vegetables, peas, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and avocados (actually a fruit, but we’ll include it!)
- Try deep breathing: This is a very simple addition to your day, but it can have a huge impact on your well-being. One of my favourite ways is “four-point” breathing: Take a deep breath in while counting to four. Hold that breath for four more counts, and then exhale for another four counts. Finally, hold your breath at the bottom of the exhale for four counts before repeating. The four counts can be four seconds, or more slowly to provide an even greater benefit to your cardiovascular system and brain.
- Drink holy basil tea: Holy basil, also known as tulsi in Hinduism, is touted for its ability to support the adrenal glands. In a recent clinical trial it was shown to improve general stress scores, sexual and sleep problems, and symptoms such as forgetfulness and exhaustion.
- Take GABA: Gamma-aminobutyric acid is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter that has a calming, stabilizing effect on the brain and prevents us from getting overwhelmed. A GABA deficiency may cause someone to feel anxious, nervous, or irritable. Consider a PharmaGABA™ supplement, a naturally-sourced form.
- Eat enough protein: It is easy to skip meals when under stress, but this can be one of the worst things for our bodies. Protein is especially necessary as it supports the immune system—something you don’t want to compromise in cold and flu season. Aim for 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per day per kilogram of your body weight. Consider a protein powder to supplement your diet.
Remember to start getting into this routine before the holiday season, so when it hits, you’ll have an effective toolkit to combat the stress and feel wonderful at this most wonderful time of the year.
Dr. Jennifer Brix is a naturopathic doctor, health educator for Natural Factors, and public speaker with a passion for empowering her patients to achieve optimal health. Dr. Jen has special expertise in treating digestive complaints, hormone imbalances, and brain-related health conditions. She has a busy active practice at Brix Wellness Clinic in Kelowna, BC.