When was the last time you received a good hug? How about the last time you gave someone a good hug?
A hug only takes seconds, but most adults feel as though the act is too personal to share with others on a daily basis; however, this mindset needs to shift because science is showing us just how important a simple hug is. Research shows a proper deep hug, where the hearts are pressing together, can benefit you in many ways.
Under high psychological stress, we are more likely to get sick. Knowing that a heartfelt hug can decrease stress levels, do you believe that hugs can help keep you stay physically healthy? Science believes this may be true, at least when it comes to the link between stress and illness. Researchers investigated the relationship of hugging, social support, and the probability of getting sick in 404 volunteers. The participants were called every evening for 14 days and asked if they had been hugged that day. There was a clear relationship with individuals who had been hugged more also feeling like they received greater social support. After the two weeks, the participants were invited to an isolated floor of a local hotel and were quarantined in separate rooms. The researchers gave them nasal drops containing a virus that caused common-cold-like illnesses. The results were amazing. How often somebody had been hugged clearly influenced their infection risk. Participants who had been hugged more had a decreased risk of infection, and out of those who were infected, those who had been hugged more had less severe symptoms.
Including hugs in your day is also linked to a happy lifestyle. We release the hormone oxytocin when touched, which elevates feelings of attachment, connection, trust, and intimacy. A 2018 study showed how hugs impact negative situations. Several hundred adults were called every night for two weeks and asked about conflicts with other people in their lives, whether they felt in a good or bad mood, and whether they had received one or more hugs that day. If participants received a hug on a day in which they had gotten into an argument with someone, the conflict appeared to lead to a smaller increase in bad mood. The hugs also had a protective effect, meaning that the participants who received a hug on one day and got into a fight the next day had experienced a smaller increase in bad mood than when not having received a hug the day before. Again, hugging has a huge impact on the psychological effects that stress causes.
When you include hugging in your everyday life, you are benefitting in the following ways:
- Lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease.
- Balancing the nervous system.
- Strengthening your immune system.
- Encouraging honest, deeper connections.
- Keeping you young and maintaining muscle strength.
- Lowering stress levels.
- Reducing feelings of pain
- Boosting self-esteem.
- Reducing feelings of depression.
- Releasing tension and relaxing the muscles.
- Providing the skin contact that bodies need to remain healthy.
- Healing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.
- Increasing feelings of happiness.
Utilizing and burning stored body fat to produce energy throughout your day can aid in a more productive lifestyle, but it can also benefit your overall health and wellness. How can you convince your body to pull from its own stored fat, though? How can you get out of your daily slump?
Yes, fasting is an old tradition that seems to be making its comeback in today’s weight-loss trends; however, there is significant research showing us that science may support a smart and safe version of abstaining from food. Instead of purely starving the body, recent studies show that planned calorie restriction triggers a complex series of intricate events, including activation of cellular stress response elements, improved regulation on the cellular level, modification of apoptosis, and positive alteration in hormonal balance. Intermittent fasting is not only more acceptable to the body, but it also prevents some of the adverse effects of chronic calorie restriction, especially malnutrition
Intermittent fasting is a term used to describe a variety of eating patterns in which no or few calories are consumed for time periods that can range from 12 hours to several days, on a recurring basis. Most research states the point of negative energy balance at which liver glycogen stores are depleted and fatty acids are mobilized is typically beyond 12 hours after food intake ends. This is why so many will recommend a 18:6 hour ratio, with 18 hours being fasting and 6 being calorie intake hours.
While simply living the 18:6 hour ratio may work well, you can take it a step further and follow the eTRP (early time-restricted feeding) schedule with your meals. This plan includes eating early in the day to be in alignment with circadian rhythms in metabolism. A recent study followed pre-diabetic men during their 18:6 ratio of intermittent fasting, in which dinner always fell before 3:00pm. While weight loss was achieved, eTRF also improved insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and appetite.
Throughout a fast, your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which signals fat burning. Muscles grow and the blood levels of growth hormone can increase as much as 5-fold. The body is believed to be able to fight off illness faster and work toward cell repair, which leads to a longer life. There is an increase in the growth of new nerve cells, which should have numerous benefits for brain function (including preventing Alzheimers and Parkinson’s). The hours spent fasting provide the body needed time for cells to remove waste products.
The enhanced hormone functioning that takes place during an intermittent fast triggers weight loss. Short-term fasting increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories, which aids in a quick weight loss. But the key is balance, and you must understand that any weight that is shed can be easily gained if you you do not follow through with lifestyle changes.
Something to note is that not only does weight loss occur, but intermittent fasting helps to diminish the belly fat that is linked to a multitude of health dangers.
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve numerous risk factors, including:
- blood pressure
- total and LDL cholesterol
- blood triglycerides
- inflammatory markers
- blood sugar levels
(It has been noted that intermittent fasting may lead to decreased risk of cancer.)
Transitioning into the fasting period can be done gently:
- Stop eating at night at a specific time – such as 7pm, at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Wait a full 12 hours to break your fast. (the majority of the time was spent sleeping.)
- You’ve had 2-4 hours of non-eating before bed and maybe 1 or less hours when you arise
- Once you make it a habit, extend your fasting period until you hit the best balance that works for you. (18 hours shows the greatest researched benefits.)
Remember that if you are sick or feeling off in any way, listen to your body and give yourself some slack on the day’s fasting goals.
Examples of functional effects and major cellular and molecular responses of various organ systems to intermittent fasting.
Profiles of circulating glucose and ketone levels over 48 hours in individuals with a typical American eating pattern or two different IF eating patterns. (a) In individuals who consume three meals plus snacks every day the metabolic switch is never ‘flipped’ and their ketone levels remain very low, and the area under the curve for glucose levels is high compared to individuals on an IF eating pattern. (b) In this example, the person fasted completely on the first day and then at three separate meals on the subsequent day. On the fasting day ketones are progressively elevated and glucose levels remain low, whereas on the eating day ketones remain low and glucose levels are elevated during and for several hours following meal consumption. (c) In this example the person consumes all of their food within a 6-hour time window every day. Thus, the metabolic switch is flipped on following 12 hours of fasting and remains on for approximately six hours each day, until food is consumed after approximately 18 hours of fasting.
Between the age of seven to ten months, most babies begin to crawl on their hands and knees. This milestone is highly anticipated by parents, but it is more than just something to note in the baby book.
I am constantly telling my patients about the importance of crawling. New research is being published regularly that links certain developmental stages to brain growth and future learning abilities. As children crawl their brain is making more and more connections. Each connection is a solution to a problem that they have solved by, and with crawling. The more a baby crawls the more efficiently these connections become and the more automatic the skill becomes. Crawling provides an opportunity to explore the surroundings, and as the skill becomes more intentional, a baby’s spatial skills also begin to develop and improve. (Spatial skills are the ability to locate objects in three dimensions using sight or touch.)
Research also shows that crawling facilitates the development of cognitive skills, including the skills that allow a child to locate an object by sight or touch. One study showed that children who were crawling on hands and knees were able to locate a hidden toy correctly more often than children who were not able to crawl in this typical fashion.
Crawling plays an important role in the development of spatial and cognitive skills. Some development experts call this stage the “psychological birth” of a baby because it spurs specific growth and refines many other skills. It increases hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills, balance, and overall strength.
Unlike army-crawling (belly crawling), hands and knees crawling requires contra-lateral or cross-lateral movements. This simply means that opposite hand and leg move together – or “cross movements.” Doctor and author Carla Hannaford explains, “Cross lateral movements, like a baby’s crawling, activate both hemispheres (of the brain) in a balanced way. These activities work both sides of the body evenly and involve coordinated movements of both eyes, both ears, both hands and both feet as well as balanced core muscles. When both eyes, both ears, both hands and feet are being used equally, the corpus callosum orchestrating these processes between the two hemispheres becomes more fully developed. Because both hemispheres and all four lobes are activated, cognitive function is heightened and ease of learning increases. Additionally, with the spinal axis giving her an up and a down, she will now be able to move any way she wants – three dimensionally.”
The cross midline ability plays a role in:
- Spine rotation: a twisting coordination through the torso
- Strengthening the lower back in preparation for standing and walking well
- Preparing the ankles for the bending and straightening needed for walking
- Strengthening hand-eye coordination
Crawling also helps reshape the hip sockets to prepare for walking. But the research doesn’t stop there. The brain development that is taking place throughout this stage of infancy is linked to reading skills years down the road. When a baby crawls, her body acts against the weight of gravity, developing her vestibular and proprioceptive systems. When crawling, the baby touches different surfaces and textures and will develop the sensibility in her palms and fingers, allowing her to grasp and hold small objects (such as a pencil or crayon to draw, write, or play a musical instrument) in the future. This is extremely important for her neurological and cognitive development. All in all, crawling supports learning, creative problem solving, and overall brain function.
If you are a new parent and want to help encourage your baby to crawl, remember that daily ‘tummy time’ is key to setting your baby up for success.
It’s a powerful word, and one you may be surprised to read about on my blog. But the truth is that with Valentine’s Day coming up, I wanted to remind everyone to jump into bed with a significant other (or yourself!) and let the good times roll.
All laughter aside, I really do want to discuss the benefits of regularly experiencing orgasms. In the busiest stage of life, couples tend to forego their own pleasure in lieu of a Netflix binge. But this behavior may be playing a larger pole in the overall declining health of our society. (Along with the medical, food, and exercise – or lack there of – choices, of course.)
We all know that sex can feel amazing. Orgasms can be mind-blowing. However, it may also just be so-so some of the time. That latter feeling is the one that typically tells you to just skip the sex and opt for a glass of wine instead. However, if you can get yourself out of the rut and back into the sack, your mind, body, and soul will thank you!
The Benefits of Regular Orgasms
Natural chemicals such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are released during an orgasm, making us feel happy, flushed, warm, or sleepy. The hormone Oxytocin is also released during an orgasm. This hormone increases your happiness and relieves your stress by fighting against hormones like cortisol that can make you feel tired, old, and overall unwell. Oxytocin travels from the brain to the heart and throughout the entire body, triggering, or modifying a full range of physiological functions and emotions: happiness, attraction, love, affection, and even hatred after being stressed. It also plays a role in a wide variety of other physiological and pathological functions.
Orgasms Can Boost the Immune System
Regular sex modifies and improves your immune system. Oxytocin lowers stress levels which means fewer colds and illnesses. Chronic stressors are associated with suppression of both cellular and humoral measures, meaning that unresolved stress can cause your immune system to stop fighting even the smallest of colds. Having sex twice a week is enough to increase your overall health.
Orgasms Can Fight Migraines and Headaches
Orgasms can relieve migraine pain or cluster headaches, according to a 2013 study – however, achieving a full orgasm is necessary in alleviating the pain. This can be done by masturbating or with a partner, depending on what makes you feel the most comfortable during your pain.
Orgasms Can Lower Blood Pressure
There is a direct correlation between achieving orgasm and lowering blood pressure, in a positive manner.
Orgasms Can Increase Heart Health
Not only does sex calm the mind, but it calms the body and reduces the work efforts put forth by your heart. Stress, anxiety, anger, and loneliness constrict your blood vessels and speed up your heart rate, increasing your risk for heart attack. Let Oxytocin lower your heart attack risks by having sex regularly.
Orgasms Can Lower Anxiety
In the high-stress world most moms (and all adults) are living in, anti-anxiety medications are being used at an all-time high. A 2010 study found that Oxytocin impacts your anxiety level in a positive manner, lowering anxiety immediately upon release. Perhaps sex may help lower our current statistics relating to stress and anxiety.
Orgasms Can Improve Circulation
Having sex improves circulation to organs in the pelvic cavity, delivering nutrients to the growing healthy tissue.
Orgasms Can Reduce Signs of Aging
With every orgasm (and every time you are ‘turned on’) the body releases dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). DHEA is an anti-aging hormone that improves muscle strength, bone density, body fat, sexual satisfaction, and overall well-being. It tends to decrease in your twenties, but sex can help increase your levels.
Orgasms Can Improve Sleep
Oxytocin reduces cortisol levels, calming your mind so you can sleep better. Orgasms also release vasopressin, which accompanies the release of your neuroprotective hormone melatonin.
Orgasms For Women
Orgasms can regulate and keep your menstrual cycle healthy, even lessening the pain of your cramps.
Orgasms For Men
Research shows that men who regularly experience orgasms twice a week (or more) live longer than men who do not.
Perhaps a little bit of sex each day can keep the doctor away?
You were raised to show gratitude, right? We all were, but yet, we all typically struggle with this seemingly easy task. We get caught up in the expectations and the business of life. As the new year gets underway, though, it is a wonderful time to truly understand the importance and benefits of gratitude.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, with readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude is not an attitude in our mind. Feeling grateful is an internal experience of fullness and expansion in the heart, an expansion that spontaneously arises from the recognition of love, of goodness, and of grace.
When you accept gratitude into your lifestyle and let it become a true part of who you are at your core – which happens over time and with awareness of practicing gratitude – it actually will rewire your brain and provide unexpected benefits to your body.
Everyone has a gracious side. A 2009 study discovered that the hypothalamus (the part of our brain that regulates multiple bodily functions including our appetites, sleep, temperature, metabolism and growth) activates when we feel gratitude, or display acts of kindness. Leading a kinder life evokes a happier, higher functioning body. As we feel gratitude, the chemical dopamine is released in our brain. It doesn’t matter if we are grateful for a person, an item, or an experience, we are granted a ‘high’ similar to what people label a ‘runner’s high.’ This high is addicting and will pull us toward this feeling over and over again. This release of dopamine may also be responsible to reducing pain levels. Studies show that keeping a gratitude journal throughout a painful (physically, mentally, or emotionally) time can reduce the overall symptoms.
As your brain is the first place that experiences the affects of gratitude, research confirms that appreciation effectively increases happiness and reduces stress and depression. The benefits to your body are not far behind those that impact the brain. Research shows that performing acts of kindness and being grateful may contribute to a longer and healthier life. Grateful people tend to be happier and exercise more than those who are more anxious or reclusive.
Gratitude also improves your sleep cycles and increases your self-esteem, leaving you feeling less aggression and anxiety. You will form stronger connections to friends, strangers, or family members as your heart becomes more empathetic through learning gratitude. Research also shows that gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma.
One study showed that people are more likely to feel gratitude towards:
- acts done by strangers than family members
- larger acts than smaller acts
- more inconvenient acts
- acts that confer benefits which themselves are not necessary because of a situation caused by the benefactor
- people with higher status
- people who were generally nicer.
People were also significantly more likely to feel gratitude when their declaration of gratitude would be public. While this all may be true, it is not gratitude at the core. Take the time to notice and respond to the smaller acts. Your head, heart, and body will thank you.
My goal for you in 2019 is to exchange self-pity for gratitude. You can choose to write a few sentences in a gratitude journal or notes for a gratitude jar, or simply take a moment to silently acknowledge all that you have, but any way you do it, giving thanks can impact your life for the better.
If you are wondering how to lead your children down the path of a grateful heart, start by saying, “Thank you” to them whenever possible. Leading by example, squatting down to eye level, placing a hand on their shoulder, and simply being grateful towards your child will open their world to accept and give appreciation.
Did you know that tummy time exercise is essential for future developmental milestones? Your newborn is learning and growing at a rapid rate, and she will experience new sensations as she matures. It is common for most infants to cry, fuss, and typically not enjoy being laid on their stomachs while awake. Actually, most babies tend to fall asleep instead of working on their neck and core strength. However, you are not failing if this is what happens in your house.
Over the years of adjusting families with young infants, I can tell in a single adjustment if a baby is completing tummy time at home. I tend to bring the subject up often in the families that I notice it may not be happening. There was false information spread a few years ago about this exercise being useless, and sadly, many moms bought into it. This, paired with the “Back to Sleep” (“Safe to Sleep”) campaign, has led to developmental delays and problems with many babies.
Laying a baby on her back does significantly lower SIDS risks; however, a baby who is always on her back is not going to develop on track. There are concerns about an infant’s head shape, especially if she is left on her back or supine position for most of the day. Babies who spend a majority of time lying on their backs in car seats, rockers or on play mats, can develop a misshapen or flattened head. You can read more about the increase in helmet wearing and Flat Head Syndrome here.
The problem is not just a flat spot on the head; your baby can develop problems with her neck and head muscles, and this misshapen head provides less room for the quickly expanding brain to grow. As a result, several children may be prone to developmental delays, sensory issues, speech and language trouble and attention and focus issues. Research has found that many students who struggle academically (and emotionally) lack the proper muscle tone in their neck, shoulders, and back to comfortably sit in a class, take notes, and look at the white board.
Crying when introduced to tummy time is common, as it is a hard workout for a baby. She is working on strengthening her arms, legs, core, and neck so she can crawl correctly and eventually walk, run, and continue to develop on track. Tummy time also promotes proper posture, mental and visual stimulation, and exploration and interaction with the world around. Research shows that babies who spend at least 80 minutes per day (in small increments) playing on their tummy while awake are more likely to reach their milestones faster than those who spend less time on their tummy.
A 2017 study found that parents who report even the slightest head asymmetry in their newborn’s first month of life were more likely to prevent further asymmetry from occurring, and they were able to reverse the problem while working with their pediatrician and following side-lying technics and tummy time exercises. This I valuable information, as many parents believe the only solution is a helmet.
Do you struggle with tummy time? Here are a few ideas to make it a more peaceful practice:
- Spread out a blanket in a clear area of the floor
- Try short sessions after a diaper change or after your baby wakes from a nap
- Put a toy or toys within your baby’s reach to help your baby learn to play and interact
- Sit with your baby while she is on the floor so that she doesn’t feel abandoned
- Increase the session duration as your baby gets older
We are on the cusp of flu season yet again, and I am asked daily by my patients, “How can I stay healthy? How can I keep my kids healthy? What do I do if we get sick?”
While I have covered my suggested vitamins and supplements here in the past, I have failed to write about a very important, and often overlooked vitamin. It seems to commonly be forgotten by doctors, too. Vitamin A is a powerful -and crucial- vitamin needed for our immune systems to prevent or treat a virus.
However, Vitamin A is not to be taken lightly. Vitamin A Toxicity is a very real and scary possibility, so dosing this vitamin correctly is quite important. As it is a fat soluble vitamin, it is stored within the body and not passed like water soluble vitamins. If an individual has adequate vitamin A stores, supplementation with high doses of vitamin A may cause a temporary malfunction in the regulation of immune function. This may result to an increased susceptibility to illness. Knowing the amount of Vitamin A you are consuming is vital.
I’d like to begin with the history of Vitamin A.
Although recent research is shedding light on how important Vitamin A is in preventing and treating viruses, it has been in the spotlight for decades in the holistic world. Used to treat Measles, the Vitamin A Protocol is viewed as a staple in natural-minded practices and homes across the globe.
Dating back to 1932, research was performed using high dosing of Vitamin A on groups of people diagnosed with the measles. Within equal sized groups of 300, the control group had 26 deaths, and the vitamin-treated group had 11.
Now consider the advancements we have made through research over the last 80+ years.
A protein called STRA6 is a receptor for retinol-binding protein (RBP), which forms a complex with vitamin A. RBP’s binding to STRA6 allows the attached vitamin A to be absorbed into the cell. This is where the magic happens. These ‘A-Powered Cells’ are needed to ward off viruses and cancers. They keep your body healthy, and when a virus does take root, these cells are needed to attack it.
(Side note: You know how important Vitamin D3 is, right? Well, it cannot aid your body without some Vitamin A. They both bind to the same cells.)
In 2011, The World Health Organization stated:
Acute lower respiratory tract infections, in particular bronchiolitis and pneumonia which are the most severe forms of acute lower respiratory tract infections, are the leading cause of mortality in children under the age of five. Pneumonia alone kills 1.8 million infants and young children every year.
With further investigation, we discover that Vitamin A supplementation is associated with large reductions in mortality and morbidity with children under the age of five.
A 2002 study revealed, a dose of 200,000 IU of Vitamin A given for TWO DAYS was associated with greatly reducing the risk of overall mortality and pneumonia specific mortality in all ages, with children under the age of two being the highest benefiters.
Vitamin A and the Measles:
In the case of measles, the evidence suggests that even after the onset of infection, vitamin A supplementation can improve the course of the virus and the fatality rate.
You should always work with your doctor when changing your supplements, or plan to follow an intense, high-dosage supplement protocol.
I tend to follow the WHO recommendations, along side of what the research presents, when dosing Vitamin A. Check your multivitamin before adding any extra into your daily routine. It is not advised to take more than 25,000 IU per day, and even that should not be done more than 2 months at a time. A healthy diet already includes plenty of opportunity for natural supplementation, so proceed with caution. However, if you find that you come down the colds and sicknesses often, including a Vitamin A supplement daily will prove helpful. Most studies show that even at 5,000 IU daily, people felt benefits.
At the onset of the flu, measles, or other viruses, the current protocol I recommend is 200,000-400,000 IU per day for ONLY TWO DAYS. This is a huge difference, isn’t it? Research has been done on both of these numbers, with results showing little difference, and both being effective. I would like to take into account that each individual is different, so every treatment can be slightly different. Again, you never go beyond 400,000 IU a day, and you never follow this high-dosage for more than 2 days.
Natural Vitamin A Sources:
- beef and chicken liver
- fish oil
Bright and vibrant yellow and orange fruit as well as dark green leafy vegetables – the more intense the color the more nutrient dense the produce.
- Carrots and Beets
- Sweet Potatoes
- Kale and cabbage
- Spinach and Rapini
- Squash and pumpkin
Other Facts about Vitamin A:
- Vitamin A protects the body from free radicals, neutralizes them as well as aiding in combating oxidative stress (which is attributed to infections and cancer).
- The amount of Vitamin A stored in the body is a direct correlation between a risk of cancer development.
- If there is a drastic decline or lack of vitamin A in cells within the body there is an increased potential that such cells can become malignant.
- Vitamin A is critical for good vision
- Vitamin A plays an important role in healthy bone growth
- Vitamin A is essential for reproduction
- Vitamin A plays a role in cell division and cell growth
- Vitamin A supports skin health
Side Note: It is recommended by WHO that infants are given 50,000 IU of Vitamin A along side of vaccines to ensure their cells are not depleted of this important vitamin while vaccinated.
Suicide is still the tenth leading cause of death and the rate of suicide in 2016 increased by 1.2 percent. In 2015, the last year the CDC released mortality data, there were 44,193 suicide deaths; in 2016 there were 44,965, an increase of 772 additional deaths.
While the average number of suicides per day are the lowest throughout the months of November and December, the number begins to climb again in January, February, and March – peeking throughout the spring each year. The holiday season tends to bring with it a contagious joy and celebration, typically including family, friends, and happy gatherings. However, it is also a season of stress, anxiety, loneliness, heartache, and disappointment. When you mix these feelings with someone living with depression, it can possibly trigger a chain reaction that ends in a devastating outcome. Harvard professor of psychology Matthew Nock cited a study published in JAMA Psychiatry that found that as hours of sunlight increased, so did the risk of suicide. The authors hypothesize that sunlight could boost energy and motivation, giving people who are depressed the ability to take action and make a suicide attempt.
When someone is depressed, they often withdraw and self-isolate. However, during the holidays, there is an emphasis on spending time with family and friends, which can be particularly difficult when you do not feel that you are truly connected to these people. This pertains to many types of depression, including: clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder, or bipolar disorder.
People with depression tend to have a negative view of themselves and their lives, this is true ever when they know:
- No one has a perfect life.
- Social media is not an accurate account of true life.
It is important for those living with a mental health condition to take extreme care of their own needs. If you or a loved one has a mental illness, please work closely with a trusted doctor and therapist regularly, especially during the holidays. Begin a journal of your daily feelings, as it is easy to forget your exact emotions from day to day.
Beating the Holiday Blues
Unlike chronic depression, seasonal depression does not linger long after the holidays or winter months, but it can still cause you to feel the same symptoms as someone who lives with it every day. A lot of seasonal factors can trigger the holiday blues such as: less sunlight, changes in your diet or routine, alcohol, over-commercialization, or the inability to be with friends or family – or worse, being forced into gatherings with people who do not make you feel happy.
Signs you may have the “Holiday Blues”:
- crying spells
- Mood swings
- trouble concentrating
- body aches
- loss of sex drive
- decreased activity level
- overeating (especially of carbohydrates)
- weight gain.
How to help yourself:
- Find increased social support during this time of year. Counseling or support groups can also be beneficial.
- In addition to being an important step in preventing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, regular exposure to light that is bright, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with SAD during the fall and winter.
- Setting realistic goals and expectations, reaching out to friends, sharing tasks with family members, finding inexpensive ways to enjoy yourself, and helping others are all ways to help beat holiday stress.
- Including proper supplements daily, along side of a healthy diet and exercise can improve your mood and lesson your symptoms.
- Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
- Make a list and prioritize the important activities. This can help make holiday tasks more manageable.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
- Do not put all your energy into just one day (for example, Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Eve). The holiday cheer can be spread from one holiday event to the next.
- Live “in the moment” and enjoy the present.
- Look to the future with optimism.
- Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the “good old days” of the past.
- If you are lonely, try volunteering some of your time to help others.
- Find holiday activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, and watching the winter weather, whether it’s a snowflake or a raindrop.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol, since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
- Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
- Spend time with supportive and caring people.
- Reach out and make new friends.
- Make time to contact a long lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer.
- Make time for yourself!
- Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks.
- Keep track of your holiday spending. Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.
If you are thinking about suicide, or if you are worries about someone else, please get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255
While the bells are jingling and the gifts are being purchased, many people tend to hold an underlying stress throughout the festive season.
The increased stress load throughout the holidays can affect:
Your overall health
Your mental health
Your Wallet (You know it’s true)
Stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes (the white blood cells that help fight off infection). The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for viruses, including the common cold and cold sores. High stress levels can also cause depression and anxiety, leading to higher levels of inflammation. In the long-term, sustained, high levels of inflammation point to an overworked, over-tired immune system that can’t properly protect you. While the holidays are only a brief period of time, the body quickly jumps into this state of panic and can fall deep into the rabbit hole of feeling off.
Your kids will be out on winter break from school soon, family gatherings are on the calendar, the gift list is a mile long, forget trying to get enough food in the house to feed everyone. Somehow, it all falls on you to pull everything off without a hiccup. Perfect decorations, polished china, fluffy bows, and a tree worthy of a magazine cover – despite your sanity flying out of the window.
Take a breath.
You can do this – without the extreme stress.
Dr. Brenda’s Holiday Happiness Guide
Keeping yourself mentally balanced will help you work through stressors as they are presented to you. A mind at peace will be able to more clearly problem solve and enjoy the process.
If you are not one who enjoys the holidays due to the stress, consider removing the largest stressors from your plans. Cancel family plans, give giftcards instead of packages, curl up in PJ’s and order your meal to be delivered – and eat on paper plates. You will stay sane, happy, and healthier than forcing yourself to follow through with your typical holiday expectations.
Anything you can do weeks in advanced? Get it done. You want to already have the majority of your list crossed off before the rush of the season arrives.
Turn on Music or Podcasts
Have sounds in the background that keep your mind on positive things.
See Your Chiropractor
Being adjusted regularly can help reduce your stress levels.
Find 20-30 minutes each day to burn extra calories, even if that means squatting while basting the turkey. Your exercise endorphins will help you stay happy.
Turn Off the Screens
Smart phones, TVs, pads, etc. all trigger the brain to feel inflamed, fatigued, and disrupted. Limit your exposure.
You can have groceries delivered. You can order gifts online. You can schedule your calendar via voice command. Use these features to make your life easier.
Take Your Supplements
Keep your immune system ready to do battle by keeping on your regular supplement schedule, possibly increasing vitamin D and probiotics.
Laugh with your loved ones throughout the day. Do silly things without holding back.
Try to get more sleep, but if that is not possible, just give yourself a timeout to regroup and refocus – or completely take your mind off of everything.
Have a Budget and a Plan
Most holiday stress revolves around finances and extended family. Take the time to put a budget in place and stick to it as best as you can. Hunt for gift deals, but don’t feel pressured to over-purchase.
When all else fails, walk away for 10 minutes. You can disappear into a bathroom, take a walk around the block with your dog, FaceTime your best friend across the country, or meditate. You always need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
Losing just one night’s sleep is enough to offset our brain. It causes neurons to fire more slowly than usual, meaning our brain takes longer to translate visual input into conscious thought.
But as a society, we are sleeping less and working more.
Our country labels a day by the pattern of the sun and the moon. We associate daylight with activity and darkness with sleep, but not before performing more activity after the sun has set. This habit tends to leave Americans with an average of 4-6 hours of sleep every night, not enough to function at an optimal neurological level.
While you should try to sleep for 7-8 hours consecutively each night, I understand that adulthood does not make it easy to do so. However, if you have the ability to clear space in your afternoon for a short nap, your body (and brain) will thank you. While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve your mood, alertness and performance.
According to the Sleep Junkies,“Even a 20-minute power nap can clear our mind, help consolidate already learnt information, and allow our brain to pick up new material faster and more effectively. Even in the early stages of sleep, the brain starts to clear out adenosine – a chemical that gets created as we work and learn. This means that when we wake up, the brain is now able to collect more information, since it has additional free space. A slightly longer nap of 60 – 90 minutes has even more benefits; and mimics a good night’s rest that allows us to learn twice as fast. Research suggests that 20 – 40 minute naps can correct this problem; so that people who take a short nap are more alert, respond better and faster and make less mistakes. Brain scans show that people who take naps perform better at tasks.”
Naps can be typed in three different ways:
•Planned napping (also called preparatory napping) involves taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. You may use this technique when you know that you will be up later than your normal bed time or as a mechanism to ward off getting tired earlier.
•Emergency napping occurs when you are suddenly very tired and cannot continue with the activity you were originally engaged in. This type of nap can be used to combat drowsy driving or fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery.
•Habitual napping is practiced when a person takes a nap at the same time each day. Young children may fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon or an adult might take a short nap after lunch each day.
University of California psychology professor Dr Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change your Life, goes even further in listing the benefits of napping.
She claims it “increases alertness, boosts creativity, reduces stress, improves perception, stamina, motor skills, and accuracy, enhances your sex life, helps you make better decisions, keeps you looking younger, aids in weight loss, reduces the risk of heart attack, elevates your mood, and strengthens memory”
Even as the science shows that napping has many benefits, understand that every person is different. There is also researching showing that naps potentially increase the inflammation within the body, and they can cause an individual to feel more tired and groggier after waking. If you would like to start napping, try to make it a daily habit, and try to keep it just under 30 minutes to see how your body responds.
Here are a few items that might help you nap in your car, or in an empty dark room at work!