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Don't Stress: Simple Tips to Maximize Holiday Fun
By Jennifer Morganti, ND, Director of Education for NEEDS

You made it past the gluttony of Thanksgiving, but there are still a few more events ahead of you, such as holiday parties at the office and friends' houses, family gatherings, music events, and maybe religious activities. If a packed schedule has you concerned about stress and how to make it through the month of December without getting sick or gaining weight, then now is a good time to prepare yourself for the upcoming challenges so you can enjoy the season to its fullest.

1. Conquering Food Challenges

The first and possibly biggest challenge for people during the holidays is the abundance of food that is everywhere, causing issues for a few different reasons. For some of us, there is a temptation to taste everything that we walk by, like those beautifully decorated Christmas cookies, sweet and creamy eggnog, or rich and cheesy dips with crisp crackers. By the end of the day, the calories add up and so do the pounds. For other folks, the issue is resisting the temptation of foods that we usually avoid because of sensitivities or allergies. Eating these foods may trigger health problems and compound the challenges of a busy time of the year.

If your primary concern is controlling your appetite and weight, try filling up on healthy, low-calorie, high-fiber vegetables before going to a place where you know there will be enticing options. Hopefully, this will limit your desire to eat excessive amounts of calorie-dense holiday foods. Taking a natural appetite suppressant like Hoodia before going to a holiday event might also help.

Also, make sure you carry a small packet of enzymes wherever you go, to help deal with digesting the quantity or types of foods that you are not usually accustomed to. There are even enzyme formulas tailored to your specific digestive deficiencies. If you have a gluten sensitivity (not a gluten allergy, as in Celiac Disease), you might benefit from an enzyme that contains DPP IV to help break it down more effectively.

2. Prioritizing Sleep

It's the parties and special events that make the season fun and festive, but try not to forsake getting adequate sleep in the process. Staying out too late, drinking too much alcohol and caffeine, or staying up wrapping gifts all night can interrupt your much needed sleep, leaving you groggy, fatigued, and possibly grouchy. Do your best to get eight hours every night, and if you have trouble sleeping, herbs like valerian, hops, and skullcap will provide a relaxing sedative effect. If anxiety and excessive thoughts keep you awake, try anxiolytic herbs and nutrients such as holy basil, GABA, and L-theanine to calm your mind and prepare for rest. These are also great for daytime use because they do not have sedative properties.

3. Boosting your Immune System

Getting enough sleep is important for mood and energy, but did you know it's also critical for keeping the immune system active? While sleeping, many bodily functions are at rest so that there is enough energy available to support immune activity and healing. Other factors can impair immune function, such as too much sugar, alcohol, and stress, all hallmarks of the holidays! For a gentle immune boost to overcome these challenges, try taking astragalus throughout the winter season.

4. Balancing Social Activities and Self Time

One of the best things about the holidays is the opportunity to visit with friends and family to celebrate all the love and joy that you share. Not only does it bring happiness, but science has also shown that it improves immune function and longevity. But, if you find that you have too many social activities planned to the point of exhaustion, be sure to balance it with a little alone time too. Go for a walk, or sit and meditate to rebalance, and take some time to appreciate all the blessings in your life. After all, isn't that what the season is really all about?

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