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Taming Holiday Stress

We live in a stressed society, and there is perhaps no time of year more stressful than the holidays with the customary family, work, social and economic demands. But the phenomenon of stress is actually not “out there” in the holiday madness. It is completely an internal reaction by the mind and body in response to how we see and understand an event.

Over the lengthy course of evolution, your body developed what is called the “fight or flight” response to life-threatening situations. Contemporary stress stems more from psychological rather than physical threats, but whether you are confronted by a saber-toothed tiger or a traffic jam, the result is the same. What happens?

Your body’s adrenal glands pump out a combination of stress hormones, namely cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine to give you the ability to quickly respond to the threat at hand. During a stress incident, your heart rate and blood pressure soar, blood sugar rises, and blood is shunted away from the digestive processes and organs in the gut to the large muscles of the arms and legs to provide strength for combat.

The destructive toll of chronic stress on a body expresses itself in the form of heart disease, stroke, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, digestive problems, neck and back pain, anxiety and depression, inflammation, and even in immune dysfunction as extreme as cancer.

But there is good news. Simple changes in your lifestyle can set you up for a whole new response to stress by supporting the systems in your body that have taken a beating. These seemingly minor changes can make a big difference:

Eliminate or restrict caffeine and alcohol
Avoid sugar, aspartame, sucralose, and high fructose corn syrup
Abolish soda pop, fast food, and over-processed foods that are high in fats and carbs
Don’t skip meals
Think of food as medicine and fill your diet with these nutriceuticals:

Potassium: apples, carrots and bananas
Sulforaphane: broccoli and cauliflower
Lutein: carrots, spinach, kale
Allylic Sulfide: garlic, onions
Caspian: peppers
Flavanoids: peppers, citrus
Indoles: broccoli, cabbage
You can further support adrenal recovery with nutritional supplements. Particularly helpful are chromium, Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, B Vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and essential fatty acids.

And finally, there is a class of herbs that are known as adaptogens. An adaptogenic plant is one that has the ability to work as a response modifier. These herbs have been noted to increase endurance, reduce fatigue, stimulate the immune system, and aid in stress reduction. Chief among these are the ginseng family, holy basil, wild yam root, medicinal mushrooms, milk thistle, saw palmetto, licorice root, gotu kola, skull cap, valerian root, and St. Johns wort.

There are many formulations of adaptogenic herbs and botanicals available on the market today from reputable manufacturers. Why not make some changes and get a jump on holiday stress before it gets the jump on you?

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