Holidays: The Good, the Bad and the STRESSFUL!

Did your Holidays quickly stack up to something like this; Your in-laws are coming and staying for the Holiday weekend, cousins on both sides of the family are joining you for dinner with a total of 12 children under the age of 16 between them, half of whom are vegetarian by the way AND your sister volunteered your house for the Holiday celebration AGAIN this year because hers is under construction.



The Holidays are stressful, no question about that! But, they are also a wonderful time to celebrate the blessings in your life and those to be bestowed in the coming year. Letting stress overcome you can lead to physical and emotional issues and even illness. A recent study explained that stress may weaken the immune system by affecting our DNA strands, also known as telomeres. Each cell contains a tiny “clock” called a telomere, which shortens each time the cell divides. To prevent this shortening from reaching a dangerous length, the body also produces an enzyme, telomerase, which protects the cell and prevents further shortening by adding more DNA to the end of the telomere. When the body is under stress, it produces cortisol, a hormone that suppresses the protective enzyme telomerase, leading to critical shortening of telomeres. The same study found that people under chronic stress have shorter telomeres and are more vulnerable to a host of ailments.[1] Telomere shortening can also increase the progression of aging and influence the onset of disease.

Not only can stress weaken your immune system and make you age faster, it can also make you fat and put you at risk for diabetes. Cortisol is a known by-product of stress, but did you know that cortisol can lead to belly fat? Weight gain in the abdominal area is a specific type of fat that occurs as a by-product of stress due to increase cortisol levels, and is even experienced by in-shape and slender persons. Increased abdominal fat is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

We hope you understand the importance of limiting your stress! Wondering how you can enjoy the Holidays with your lingering To-Do and Guest lists building out of control?

Try these tips for managing holiday stress, don’t worry you can apply them all year round!

  • Lower your expectations: Ronald Nathan, PhD is a clinical professor at Albany Medical College in New York whom counsels people to examine their thoughts and expectations regarding the holidays and encourages them to “lower your expectations, and overestimate — rather than underestimate — your time.” Don’t worry about finding the perfect gift or planning the perfect party says Ronald Nathan, PhD.


  • Shorten your “To-Do” List: Get rid of anything that is unnecessary, you do NOT need to have 10 different desert choices. You can also shorten your list by asking for HELP. Holidays are supposed to be about GIVING; ask your family, friends and guests to GIVE you a hand with the Holiday preparations. Whether it’s cooking a dish, bringing a desert or taking the kids to the movies so you can clean the house, it’s okay to ask!


  • Be realistic: You do not have to be perfect, and neither does your Holiday celebration. Tradition is great, but so is change! Maintain the most important rituals and create new ones with friends and family so everyone can enjoy the Holidays the way they want to, not the way they are expected to.


  • Stick to a Budget: Contrary to what has become popular belief, the Holidays are not about money!  Set a budget you’re your Holiday decorations, grocery shopping and gifts then monetize your ‘To-Do’ list. Do not over spend or bend your budget for something you don’t need, it will create more stress that is brought with you, and you credit card statement, into the New Year.


  • Plan Ahead: Don’t be running around at the last minute! Set aside a day and certain amount of time to complete everything on your ‘To-Do’ List, don’t forget to ask for help if it looks like you won’t be able to get it all done yourself! Remember, under estimate you time don’t over estimate it!


  • Just say NO: Saying ‘no’ eliminates the need to push yourself to the max or to spend the holidays somewhere other than where you want to be. Saying “yes” when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Saying ‘no’ can also help shorten your “To-Do” list and reduce your stress levels by giving you free time to take part in non-Holiday related fun.


  • If you can’t beat it, eat it! There are certain foods that are said to have anti-stress properties:[2]

 Asparagus: Folic acid deficiency has been linked to mood disorders such as depression, a single cup of asparagus contains two-thirds of your daily value of folic acid!

 Avocados: Research has shown that B Vitamins are necessary for healthy nervous and brain function, avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins. They are also high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, which help lower blood pressure.

 Blueberries: When we’re stressed, our bodies need vitamin C and antioxidants to help repair and protect cells. Just a handful of blueberries pack a powerful punch of antioxidants and vitamin C, making them mighty stress-busters.

 Milk:  Milk is high in antioxidants, vitamins B2 and B12, as well as protein and calcium. The protein lactium has a calming effect by lowering blood pressure, while the potassium in milk can help relieve muscle spasms triggered by feeling tense.  A glass of warm milk before bed is a time-tested remedy for insomnia and fidgetiness.

 Almonds: Vitamins B2 and E help bolster the immune system during times of stress. Almonds are rich in both; just a quarter cup of almonds each day does the trick.

 Oranges: For more Vitamin C and antioxidants pack an orange with your lunch or have it as a snack. Vitamin C has also been shown to lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. Remember, it’s always better to eat your fruits rather than drink them.

 Salmon: A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps keep cortisol and adrenaline from spiking when you’re feeling tense. Salmon is one of the very best sources of omega-3s.

 Spinach: Magnesium helps regulate cortisol levels and promote feelings of wellbeing and spinach is full of it! A mere cup of spinach fills 40 percent of your daily quota, add it to your eggs, salad, soup or sub it for plain old lettuce anytime!

 Turkey:  Ever feel tired after eating Turkey? That is due to the amino acid tryptophan, which signals the brain to release the feel-good chemical serotonin and can promote calmness and even tiredness. Feeling anxious, have some turkey.. as if you didn’t have enough turkey on Thanksgiving!

 Oatmeal: Oatmeal also encourages the production of the happy and calming hormone, serotonin. Be sure to choose  thick-cut, old fashioned oats that require cooking instead of instant oatmeal; they are higher in fiber and take longer to digest, meaning their calming effect actually lasts longer.



If the Holiday hustle and bustle gets too much at any point, remember this…

Happy and Healthy Holidays from Nutritional Therapeutics, Inc.





[1] WedMD “Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress” By Charlotte Libov

[2] Men’s Fitness “Eat to Beat Stress: 10 Foods That Reduce Anxiety”