How to stress less this silly season
Does the thought of the impending holiday season fill you with dread? If so, Fusion Health’s co-founder Paul Keogh suggests you take steps now to help prepare yourself mentally and physically for the intense time ahead.
The festive season is meant to be a time of joy and celebration, but for many of us, it can be stressful. The causes of silly season stress can take many different forms, including the emotional intensity of family dynamics, the demands of meeting work deadlines before the end-of-year holidays kick in, and a general sense of having too many things to get done and not enough time to do them!
Any of those situations alone could be stressful, but if you’ve got several of them going on at once, it’s easy to see how the situation can quickly turn into an emotional pressure cooker, and leave you feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
What does silly season stress look like?
Stress affects all of us in different ways, and your personal experience may be vastly different to that of people around you. The common thread though is that stress has the effect of making you feel that your inner resources are depleted and/or that you’re hyped up and consequently not functioning at your best.
That means that during stressful times, you might feel tired, irritable, forgetful or a bit anxious, or you might experience a nervous kind of indigestion. You may also find yourself lying wide awake in bed at night thinking about the impossibly long list of tasks that need to be done.
Act now to improve your ability to handle stress later
Many of the effects of stress are cumulative, building up as a result of being under pressure for a long period of time or from a wide variety of sources simultaneously.
Building up your mental and physical ability to handle stress more effectively also takes time, so if you have a track record of finding the festive season tough to cope with, there’s no time like the present for taking action!
Holy basil helps relieve stress symptoms
In Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil (also known as tulsi or sacred basil), has traditionally been used to help relieve symptoms of stress and enhance the physical and mental ability to cope with stressful situations.
A standardised and clinically tested extract of holy basil (called Ocibest®) has been shown to be beneficial in managing symptoms of stress such as fatigue and sleep disturbance.1 Ocibest® may also help to relieve mild anxiety.
Withania improves resistance to stress
Another Ayurvedic herb, withania (also known as ashwagandha), has been used in similar ways, and is traditionally used as a rejuvenating tonic (or Rasayana to use the Ayurvedic term). It has also traditionally been used to improve resistance to stress in Ayurvedic medicine, and to relieve stress symptoms such as worry, nervous tension and insomnia. Bring it on!
Magnolia relieves nervous indigestion
Traditionally, the bark of the magnolia tree has a long history of use as a relaxing digestive remedy in Chinese medicine, as well as to help relieve nervous indigestion.
Polygala calms the mind and spirit
The herb polygala has traditionally been used to quieten and calm the mind and spirit in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In TCM, the mind can often be imbalanced by stress and worry.
B-group vitamins support a healthy stress response
B-complex vitamins, in particular vitamins B5 and B6, can help in supporting a healthy stress response in the body. They can also assist with mental function (when you need it most!) including vitamins B1, B3, B6, biotin and folic acid.
Extra steps you can take to support your stress-coping capacity
The various stressors of the silly season can be exacerbated if you’re not taking good care of yourself, so here are our top tips for doing just that over the holidays:
- Prioritise a good night’s sleep: With so much socialising on the agenda and a super-long to do list, it can be tempting to burn the candle at both ends at this time of year. However, skimping on sleep almost always comes back to bite you later, reducing your energy levels and ability to adapt to stress, and making it difficult to concentrate
- Choose light, healthy meals: Christmas and the festive season are the perfect excuse to treat yourself to foods you’d normally only consume occasionally or in small quantities. While that’s not a problem occasionally, over-indulging consistently between now and the New Year may leave you feeling sluggish and tired. Also, a fatty or stodgy diet won’t contain as many vitamins and minerals as one based on fresh fruit and veggies, and in times of stress, your nervous system has increased requirements for key nutrients. (TIP: If you know your diet’s not likely to be the best over the Christmas season, take a multivitamin supplement, to support your ability to cope with stress)
- Avoid alcohol: If you’re feeling stressed, it’s best to enjoy alcohol in small or moderate quantities, if at all. Aside from adding to the load on your liver, drinking interferes with your sleep patterns (so may make you even more tired than you already are) and inhibits your will power (which may make it even more difficult than usual to stick to your nutritious diet or refrain from losing your temper when under pressure)
- Exercise often: Aside from its benefits for physical wellbeing, exercise helps to clear your head, reduce anxiety, and enhance your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Aim for at least half an hour of moderate activity on most days of the week, and for additional stress-busting benefits, enjoy exercising outdoors in an inspiring natural location like the beach or your local park
- Saxena RC, et al. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2012;2012894509.