As we all know, the holidays ’tis the season to be stressed! This year of course it is different with most of us in government mandated lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic. We do not have the festive parties, the large family gatherings, and we are supposed to celebrate with our immediate family only. This causes a lot of different stress and of course a flurry of emotions for all of us and especially for those that live alone.
The worrying and stress that we all have been experiencing during this on going pandemic takes its toll – especially on your cortisol levels. Stress doesn’t just pack on the pounds, it also increases your appetite, drops your metabolism, increases cravings, lowers your libido, disrupts your sleeping patterns, and throws your hormones out of balance. Reducing stress and maintaining a positive mental attitude through the holidays are important for both your health and your sanity. The solution to stress is multifaceted but here are my most recommended five healthy habits that you can use throughout the strange holiday season this year to keep your cortisol under control:
- Pop your vitamins. Often during hectic/stressful times our healthy habits fall to the wayside. A quick and easy way to give your body the tools it needs to stay healthy during the December rush is to keep your vitamin habit in check. Out of sight is out of mind, so store them in a storage container on the counter or in another location that is easily accessible. It looks better than crowds of loose bottles anyway. Aim to stick to your vitamin protocol a minimum of five days a week, but of course everyday is best! Reminder to be taking Vitamin D3 drops, zinc and Vitamin C for immunity.
- Keep healthy snacks in your house. Instead of nibbling on blood-sugar boosting treats like a muffin or pastry, chips or whatever your guilty pleasure is try some walnuts, pecans, apples, plain yogurt with protein powder or protein bars (with high protein/fibre and low sugar). Aim to never go longer than three hours without eating. Eating regularly will avoid blood sugar highs and lows that can affect your mood and energy. Missing meals is stressful on your body, causing an increase in cortisol which can actually cause weight gain rather than loss because of the decrease in metabolism associated with caloric restriction. Stress-related weight gain is particularly problematic since it tends to deposit around the abdomen, which is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. If you have an undeniable craving, have a bit of dark pure chocolate or a chewable vitamin C tablet. Having protein with your snacks and meals will also help decrease your cravings.
- Stay Hydrated. Get a 2 litre water bottle to keep on your desk if you’re working from home and aim to drink it by the end of the day. Add drops of chlorophyll to your water—it is cleansing, detoxifying and has a nice, minty taste. Instead of grabbing a coffee throughout the day, aim for a cup of green tea. Caffeine causes an undesirable elevation of cortisol. Green tea is one of the only products containing caffeine that is not harmful because it also contains theanine which blocks the effect of cortisol.
- Be mindful of your stress. If you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed concentrate only on what is happening to you in your surroundings. There is so much out of our control right now – it is best to take a “this too shall pass” attitude. Enjoy those you live with, embrace the slower pace of life. A good stress buster is to write things down, I am finding now more than ever I use my daily journal and avoid storing things on my iphone. By getting the task down on paper and out of your head it will help you reduce the stress and plan your day better. Whether it’s Santa’s Shopping List or work-related projects to finish before your Christmas holidays, the ability to cross a task off the list is a great feeling of accomplishment. You can also keep a sweet smelling hand cream or lavender oils near by and use this as a reminder to keep you centered and calm when you need to de-stress. Don’t forget to breathe…use meditation apps if they help. There are loads and believe me they help.
- Work in the weights. If you are lucky to have weights at home then use them! Gyms are closed but that doesn’t mean you can’t work out. I know that dumbbells were a big seller this year and hard to come by. If you don’t have you can also improvise with items in your home OR do a workout that just requires body weight. The best way to release pent up energy from lengthy to-do lists and COVID-19 fatigue is to workout. But be sure to balance cardiovascular exercise with weight training to maintain your metabolic rate. If you are under high levels of stress, try to keep your workouts short so as not to increase your cortisol levels – overdoing it will only create more stress! Instead, a quick 30 minute circuit 2-3 times per week will combine your cardio workout and resistance training all in one shorter session. Circuit training is also the best type of workout for improving insulin response, boosting testosterone and stimulating growth hormone. So you spend less time exercising but realize even more benefits. Best of all, the extra effort working out will help you reach those resolutions early and help you manage your stress levels. Prefer to be outdoors? Go for a fast paced walk in nature – guaranteed to minimize stress.
There are so many apps and websites that have short workouts to do at home. Instagram is also full of them. We have workouts on our Instagram too so give us a follow – @drnatashaturnernd or @clear.medicine