It may be the most wonderful time of the year for many of us — but that doesn’t mean the holidays are stress-free. From planning get-togethers and meals to holiday shopping and travel, the chaotic routine that comes with the winter holidays can take a toll on both physical and mental health, compromising the wellness you’ve worked so hard to maintain throughout the year.

 

Thankfully, there are some easy, practical ways you can protect your mind and body from the effects of the stress you might encounter between now and January. Here are a few of our best suggestions for both promoting health during the holiday chaos:

 

Focus on your breath.

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When everything else seems chaotic, one thing you can control is your breath. Breathing mindfully can pack a big punch in promoting calm, as it signals your brain to turn off the fight-or-flight response and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response. Plus, increased oxygenation helps you stay alert and energized, which is always beneficial during the holidays. To start, try breathing in for a four count, then an exhale an eight count, and repeat until you feel calm.

 

Load up on Vitamin D.

 

Vitamin D deficiency has a huge impact on mental health, and it can also affect our immune response. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get enough Vitamin D through just nutrition (unless you’re eating fatty fish every day!). Because the darker winter months result in less exposure to Vitamin-D rich sunlight, I always recommend increasing dosage from October through March. Supplementing with 1000 IU daily is a great place to start, though blood work may reveal you need even more, in fact, the Vitamin D Council says 1000 IU per every 25 pounds of weight you carry.

 

Pay attention to your nutrition.

 

It can be so easy to eat mindlessly during the holidays, when all your favorite foods make their annual return. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of champagne or a Christmas cookie (‘tis the season!), don’t trade your well-being and energy for a moment of enjoyment. Instead of inflammatory, sugary foods, which can impact anything from mood and energy levels to immunity and blood sugar, choose low-carb, nutrient-dense options. Not only will you feel much more balanced when you eat well; you’re doing your future self a favor by setting the tone for wellness. Remember: The foods you eat become the building blocks of every cell in your body. What do you want to be made of?

 

Move your body.

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There are so many emotional and physiological benefits to frequent exercise. Whether you enjoy more relaxing activities like yoga or high-intensity movements like running, don’t drop your exercise routine in the winter, when you probably need it most. To keep your mental health in check during the busy holiday season, schedule exercise before holiday events, like the morning of Thanksgiving dinner at your family’s or just before heading out of town for Christmas.

 

Try essential oils.

 

Our senses play a huge role in promoting an anti-stress response. By taking advantage of all the benefits of aromatherapy this holiday season, you can not only fill your home with scents you love, but also keep yourself calm. It’s a win-win! One trick I swear by is making a mini-oil diffuser and keeping it in my purse to smell when I feel stressed. I find frankincense and lavender to be very grounding.

 

Let go of the non-essentials.

 

We all want to create a memorable, meaningful holiday season for our loved ones. But that doesn’t mean we have to strive for perfection. Try keeping your expectations and plans low-key this year, and see how it impacts your stress levels. Think about what you can let go of while maintaining your core values. If it’s not necessary to get everyone in your extended family a gift, can you go without it? Can you opt for gift bags instead of wrapping, or choose to purchase fewer gifts and make more memories? What about decorating salt-dough ornaments instead of baking cookies?

 

We’re here to help.

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Looking for a little extra support during the winter months? We totally understand, and we’re here to help! Chiropractic adjustments, a nutritional consult, or massage can all be great tools to prevent stress and promote overall wellness during the winter season. Just click to get started!

-Dr. Berg

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