by Barbara Heinen, NC

I’m still flying high after this week’s event. GreenSquare Center for the Healing Arts hosted a Women’s Holiday Health Celebration. I feel so lucky to be a part of a group of passionate and talented healing arts professionals all dedicated to supporting peoples’ journey towards optimal health and wellbeing. Over 100 women packed the room to learn how to reduce stress and stay healthy through the holiday season. It’s exciting to witness this shift and to be able to help women give birth to their most vibrant joyful life.

We have the power to influence our health.

The pace of life disconnects us from our innate wisdom and the messages that our bodies have for us. Our habits and food choices numb us. Holidays can add an additional burden with busier days, longer nights, more spending, more eating, more alcohol, more caffeine, and more expectations to provide the perfect experience. By the end of the year, we are often frazzled, frustrated and sick.

Although each practitioner came at it from a different angle and focus, the message of the event was universal: We have the power to influence our health. Nutrition and Lifestyle are the two things over which we have control. Our thoughts and actions both have powerful impact. How we choose to live each moment can either help us heal or contribute to dis-ease.

Food can help reduce stress

Nutrition, the foods we choose to eat each day, can either add stress to our bodies or support a healthy stress response, reduce inflammation and strengthen our immune systems. The standard american diet is loaded with ingredients that are making us sick. Do these foods make up the majority of what you are eating? Refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, fried foods, conventionally raised meats, alcohol and caffeine. Often during the holidays, we find ourselves eating even more of all of these ingredients. They are acid-forming, increase inflammation and wreak havoc on our energy, sleep and stress levels.

Consider instead a new plate. Eat a variety of greens, vegetables and fruits in a rainbow of colors; clean proteins such as pastured meats and eggs from your local farmer, wild-caught fish, legumes, nuts and seeds; healthy fats such as wild-caught fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines etc), nuts and seeds (flax, chia and walnut are great choices), avocados, and olives; and whole grains (gluten free options like quinoa, millet, amaranth, wild rice, brown rice, buckwheat and teff are excellent choices). Eat a small amount of healthy fats and clean protein at each meal. They’re crucial to a healthy stress response. These foods will provide the right set of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients to reduce stress, increase energy, and improve sleep and mood. They will help us enjoy the rest of the year more fully.

Try swapping out coffee for herbal tea. Drink water throughout the day. If choosing alcohol, drink in moderation and awareness. Consider non-alcoholic options served up festively in a champagne flute and garnished with fresh fruit.

Diets can be stressful

I am not suggesting a diet. In fact, dieting can backfire. It can trigger our bodies to hang on to weight. Judgmental thoughts can trigger a stress response which has the same effect. Be aware of thoughts and statements that include ‘I should’, ‘I must’ and ‘I have to’. Instead rephrase those to ‘I choose to’. I am making the choice to…eat more greens, drink water rather than beer, etc’. Rather than diet, I suggest instead a focus on small changes. Check in and see what small steps you are ready to make. Focus on the healthy changes you want to add in, rather than the things you’re ready to let go. These will fall away as the new healthier choices are incorporated. Little by little, step by step, a new healthier lifestyle is grown. One that can last a lifetime.

Practice love – start with yourself

Shower yourself with love and nurturing this holiday season. Sleep is the first place to start. It supports a strong metabolism, lowers stress, increases energy, and supports our moods. Schedule in at least 7 hours per day. Incorporate ‘active resting’ each day. Take 5 minutes to mindfully rest. Close your eyes and tell your brain to wait for 5 minutes. This can reset your body and help maintain a more relaxed day. Mindful awareness helps reconnect our body, minds and spirit. One of the most powerful tools to develop mindfulness and reduce stress is a practice of breathing and meditation. If this new, start with a minute or two. Be gentle. If the mind wanders, simply notice and focus on the breath again (and again and again, as often as needed). Our bodies will guide us towards healthy choices as we learn to listen. Give yourself an early gift today. Incorporate these daily practices into your life now.

Time for what is truly important

Take a look at your calendar. Time is a precious resource. Guard it. Remove those items that are not aligned with what’s most important to you this holiday season. A perfectly decorated house, piles of purchased gifts that put you in debt, and a party calendar filled with people that you don’t absolutely adore may leave you feeling depressed and disappointed come January. Add in time for the things that matter most. Create meaningful moments with those you treasure most. Give the gift of time shared together. Tis the season for love, laughter, friendship, family, friends.

When you let go of the old, all those foods and habits that no longer serve you, and step into these new ways, you will start to feel stress subside and joy bubble up all over. And JOY is our natural state. I wish you a healthy, relaxed and Joy-filled holiday season.

Less Stress and More Joy for the Holidays

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