As we all know, the holidays ’tis the season to be stressed! All that last minute shopping, traffic jams, travelling, late night partying and not-so-healthy snacking takes its toll. All this added stress can wreak havoc on your hormones, especially on your cortisol levels.  Stress doesn’t just pack on the pounds; it also increases your appetite & cravings, slows your metabolism, disrupts your sleeping patterns, and generally just throws your body out of balance. Managing stress and maintaining a positive attitude throughout the holiday season are important for both your health and your sanity. There are many ways to combat stress, but to simplify things; here are my top 5 recommendations for keeping your stress levels at bay and surviving the holiday season.

Work It Out ~ I always say that exercise is the best medicine for mind, body, and spirit. When it comes to stressful times such as the holidays, it’s the mind & spirit that truly need the release, and with that, the body will be in a much better hormonal balance. Both cardiovascular and strength exercises are your best bet to ensure that you maintain a steady metabolic rate. Can’t make it to the gym, or maybe your regular classes aren’t available over the holidays? Not to worry. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air, or if you live here in Cayman, make a beach day; paddle board, swim, just get out and move. For strength training, there are many ways to incorporate strength moves with just your body weight. Make up a circuit of pushups, squats, lunges, plyometric moves, or a Pilates mat session are all great examples. When facing stressful times, be sure not to overdo it, as that just creates more stress in the body. Keep the workouts short, maybe just a quick 30 minute circuit or cardio session at a moderate pace at least 2-3 times per week. Whatever you do, just get out and do it and you will feel so much better afterwards, I promise!

Stay Hydrated ~ Dehydration can cause a whole cascade of issues including lowered immunity, fatigue, weight gain, bloating (yes, it’s true!), headaches, and dull, dry skin just to name a few. When you wake up, have a glass of plain or lemon water before any coffee or breakfast. During the day, keep a favorite water bottle by your side at all times ~ on your desk at work, in your car, and while you shop, for example. Before going to a cocktail party, have a large glass of water before you head out, and drink one glass of water for each cocktail that you consume. Have another glass or two before bed, and keep a glass on your night table to sip if you wake in the night. If you do end up dehydrated, balance your electrolytes by having a hydration supplement such as liquid IV, Nuun, or even coconut water.

Don’t Starve Yourself ~ “Saving calories” by starving yourself before a big night out or the morning after one is a recipe for disaster. Keeping your blood sugar levels even is key when it comes to maintaining energy, metabolism, and keeping bad moods and cravings in check. Keep those hunger pangs at bay by having high protein snacks readily available in your bag, desk drawer, office refrigerator, or wherever is convenient. That way you won’t end up scarfing down the home baked treats & chocolates in the office at the end of the day when you find yourself crashing. Make sure to also have one of those high protein snacks before a night out so that you have something in your stomach before that first cocktail. You will be much more inclined to say no to unhealthy snacks that are most likely loaded with a bunch of empty calories.

Supplements ~ Keep your supplement habits in check! Often during the holidays our healthy habits go out the window. I typically see a lot of the “all or nothing” attitude, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are rarely home, try taking your supplements with breakfast and before bed to stay on schedule, or take them to the office. Supplementing five days per week is better than none. Keep your supplements where you can see them, because out of sight equals out of mind, especially when you are out on the town more than usual. Keep a days’ supply with you in a small zip lock bag if you are on the go.

Mindfulness ~ If you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed, start by focusing on your breathing, and then concentrate only on what is happening to you in your surroundings in that moment. Most people take on too much during the holidays and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Get your “to do” list in writing, whether in paper, or notes on your phone or computer. Getting the task out of your head and in writing will help you stay organized, reduce the stress, and help you plan your days and weeks that much better so that you feel on top of things rather than out of control. Delegating tasks to family members, even the smallest stuff, will lighten the load as well. Letting go of guilt is another big one. We can only do so much in a day, and if you feel stressed & anxious when thinking of yet another cocktail party or social event, know that it’s ok to pass it up and take some time out if you need it. Struggling to attend each and every event will simply exhaust you and lead to that inevitable hormonal imbalance with all the undesired side effects.

Stress comes in many ways, shapes and forms. I hope these 5 tips will help you maintain the status quo through stressful times and keep you on the right track towards a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy, and Stress-Free Holiday Season!