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The holidays are not always full of joy and good tidings! While we all have the best intentions, often the holidays are a reminder of old emotional traumas or the memories of loved ones who are no longer around. In addition, the holidays often bring a ton more work, shopping, financial stress, entertainment, and social obligations.
To cope, we might be tempted to indulge or over-indulge in some holiday sweets or a few drinks, and soon you realize the pounds are back, you are not digesting right, and perhaps more stressed than ever!
If you find yourself letting the holidays get the best of you year after year, let me offer three simple tips that I personally use to stay on track. (Post-holidays too; these tips are helpful anytime!)
Tip #1: One Minute Meditation
This is a one-minute reset when you are feeling spun out. Incredibly simple and amazingly effective, I tell my patients that if they did this ten times each day, it would change their lives – in only ten minutes a day! In just a week, it can become an effortless, daily habit.
Simply put, when we are stressed out, the brain overworks. Thoughts become incessant, and the circulation and oxygenation of the brain become compromised. Without adequate oxygenation to the brain, we may become nervous, anxious, and feel unable to cope. The One Minute Meditation literally pumps oxygen into the brain, delivering quick and effective relief for your stress. It consists of 30 seconds of fast, but deep, nasal breathing that literally pumps more oxygen into the brain, followed by 30 seconds of sitting still with the eyes closed.
You can do it every time you get in and out of your car, at the office, first thing in the morning and before bed. Try it and see how it works for you; it takes just one minute!
How it works: There are peptides that carry emotions that are concentrated along the respiratory tract. The holidays are often the time when we stir up against old toxic emotional peptides that can literally lodge deep within the cells, altering the function of the immune, nervous and endocrine systems. Breathing is considered one of the ways to access and reset the emotions, which block what researchers are now calling the body’s information network. (1)
How it’s done: Sit up straight and comfortably in your chair. For 30 seconds, do bellows breathing as deep in and as deep out as you can. Follow this with 30 seconds of sitting still in silence, breathing through an ujjayi or ocean breath.
Please watch my One Minute Meditation video, above, for a demonstration of how to do the breathing correctly for maximum results. Send it to a friend or family member to help keep them on the right track, and you can remind each other of this quick tip when you feel overwhelmed.
Tip #2: Respect Your Digestion
I’d say the second biggest complaint I hear around the holidays goes something like, “My eating habits are out of control! I am bloated, gaining weight, and I can’t stop eating!”
In the winter, we turn up the heat in our homes. In the same way, the body is working to increase the digestive fire so it can process the heavier, richer, more insulating proteins and fats of the winter harvest. The key is to make sure you are turning on the digestive fire, rather than turning it off, with those yummy holiday foods.
- Eat meals, not snacks. It’s easy to skip meals this time of year. Snacks cause our blood sugar to crash and then we start pigging out on holiday junk food that is extremely hard to digest and drowns out our digestive fire.
- Drink a big glass of water 15 minutes before your meal. This turns on the digestive fire.
- Give yourself permission to have that holiday sweet, just make it part of a meal!
- Quick digestive fire starter: Let’s say you are at a restaurant or a holiday gathering about to eat a late or heavy meal, and you are concerned that it will bloat you or just not digest well: Mix 1/8 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of black pepper in a spoon. Order water with lemon (preferably without ice, keeping the water room temperature or warm), add the salt and pepper mixture and take this digestive starter before you order. By the time your food arrives, your digestive fire will be ready to cook that holiday meal!
- I recommend two digestive formulas during the holidays: Warm Digest for the digestive fire and Beet Cleanse for the gallbladder (which stores bile, which is necessary for the digestion of fats) and pancreas (which produces digestive enzymes). You can find more information about these herbs at the end of this article.
Tip #3 Stress Support
Studies have shown that 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, with only 5% produced in the brain. (2)
This proves something I think we all intuitively know: that the digestive system is where stress lands first. In fact, the gut receives the stress message, processes it, and then manufactures and delivers the appropriate response to the rest of the body. This is all done via its own completely independent nervous system called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which some call the second brain.
Here are some examples of the stress-digestion link:
- Why do folks get constipated when they travel?
- What is the most common cause of heartburn, ulcers, and indigestion?
- What is the most common cause of a tummy ache for kids?
- What is the cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
- What chemically tells the body to store fat and gain weight?
- What causes hypoglycemia and low blood sugar?
Yep, the answer to all of these can be summed up in one word: STRESS.
Stress impacts the intestinal wall, causing the body to manufacture and secrete the appropriate stress responding neurotransmitter (such as serotonin or dopamine) to the Central Nervous System (CNS) and, subsequently, to the appropriate organ system.
In excess, these neurotransmitters cause insomnia, anxiety, depression, irritability, and many other ailments.
For stress and nervous system support, I recommend Brahmi (Centella asiatica). It is unique because it supports the nervous system and the gut by relaxing the stress response in the gut while boosting the resiliency of the nervous system to handle stress. Recent research has shown brahmi’s ability to support the health of the intestinal mucosa and protect against premature wrinkles! Yes, it is one herb that supports both the inner and outer skin, all the while boosting nervous system resiliency.
If the holiday stress is waxing and your digestive strength is waning, put these three very simple but effective strategies to work for you!
- Pert, Candace. The Molecules of Emotion. Simon and Schuster. 1997
- Gershon, Michael D. The Second Brain. Harper, 2003.
- Pert, Candace. The Molecules of Emotion. Simon and Schuster. 1997