Supporting Mental Health During the Holidays
Holiday stress and anxiety may always be there but there are tools that you can use to manage your mental health during the holidays. Great stress management techniques may be doing some deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and spending quality time with friends, family, and even pets! Continue reading for more mind-body techniques, herbal remedies, supplements and diet suggestions to keep your cup full.
GRATITUDE - Keeping a daily gratitude practice can help you feel grounded during the constant chaos of the holiday season. Start by listing 3-5 things you are grateful for each day. Gratitude has been shown to reduce feels of anxiety, stress and depression.
With patients I have recommended "The Daily 3":
3 things you are grateful for and 3 daily accomplishments.
Example - Gratitude for food, shelter, family. Accomplished going for a walk, ate a healthy breakfast to start the day, and did some holiday baking/food prep.
HERBAL ADAPTOGENS - Being under constant stress causes the adrenal glands to continuously release cortisol (fight or flight hormone). Having to plan for the holidays definitely gets our adrenal glands going! Signs of a stressed adrenal gland are: worry, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, fatigue and many more symptoms. Adaptogenic herbs used in naturopathic medicine help to balance cortisol release so that after a particular stressor (ex. last minus christmas shopping) your body can recover!
Withania Somnifera (Ashwaganda), Rhodiola, and Eleutherococcus (Siberian Ginseng) are all examples of adaptogens that help with this process.
HOLIDAY DEPRESSION/ANXIETY - Holiday advertisements tend to create a false image of Christmas "ideals", which don't include present family/relationship dysfunctions, personal struggles and financial difficulties which may be worsened during the holiday season. Perhaps you or someone you know may be struggling with either a physical ailment or mental health condition (seasonal affective disorder [SAD], anxiety and depression) which may make the holiday season a struggle. Continue reading for ways that you can support both anxiety and depression concerns over the holidays.
NATUROPATHIC STRATEGIES FOR MENTAL HEALTH
NERVINE HERBS - These are herbs that are either sedating in nature or relax the sympathetic nervous system, leading to feelings of relaxation and ease. These are just some examples, but a licensed naturopathic doctor can formulate a specific blend for your needs
(Ex. Anxiety and Digestive issues? A customized tincture with nervine and digestive herbs could be your personalized blend)
Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) - Anxiety with Irritable Bowel/Digestive Issues OR Anxiety with Cold/Flu
Matricaria recutita (Chamomile) - Anxiety with Sleep Issues
Avena Sativa (Oat) - Burnout with Depression
Passiflora Incarnta (Passionflower) - Anxiety & Restlessness
Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort) - Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder
Peppermint, Chamomile and Passionflower are available in tea, supplement and tincture form. Oat and St. John's Wort are not readily found in tea form.
Vitamin D - Many individuals living in the Northern Hemisphere do not receive enough sunlight, therefore are likely Vitamin D deficient. It is worthwhile to get Vitamin D levels checked either by a Naturopathic Doctor or your Family Physician. Vitamin D levels may impact SAD.
Other helpful supplements are B vitamins, Probiotics and Fish oils, which both are precursors to healthy neurotransmitter creation (serotonin, dopamine, GABA).
Healthy Protein - Protein helps stabilize blood sugar, reducing feelings of anxiety from blood sugar spikes. From protein, we also get a dietary source of B vitamins, zinc and more. Examples: turkey, chickpeas/legumes, salmon, nuts
Leafy Greens and Vegetables - Incorporate dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach for antioxidants/iron, along with foods rich in Vitamin C such as Bell peppers and berries. Vitamin C can help the body adapt to stress, as stores are depleted.
Fluid Intake - Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, irritability and low mood. Aim for 8 cups of fluids (non-caffeine or juice-based). This can be done through water, flavoured waters and herbal teas. Caffeine can reduce fluids, and fruit juices are usually high in sugar.
Processed Sugar and Alcohol - All in moderation of course! Alternate treats/sugary foods with healthy nuts, veggies or a snack like hummus. Try to space out a glass of water in between each drink, to avoid feeling hungover the next day. Another great way to spread out alcohol, is to have something like sparkling water with lemon, berries or lime. It feels festive and is not as plain as straight water! Its easy to turn to quick carbs or alcohol for "feel-good" endorphins, but realize that they are short-lived. It is best to set out a limit of drinks or sweets per event - that way you can thoroughly enjoy what you do have, and also have a sense of control :).
Consult a registered Naturopathic Doctor to see how you can support your mental health during the holiday season! Book a Consult here.
Disclaimer: Consult a health practitioner to ensure that these recommendations are right for you (ex. St. John's wort does have drug interactions)