December's Health Genie: Holiday Stress Relief
Note:This article is not meant as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult with your medical practitioner before using any type of remedy, herbal or otherwise.
Dear Health Genie,
I am a fan of the holiday season and hosting holiday parties, however, my wife stresses easily this time of year. We prepare together, but even with my help she is frantic and tense- especially if we are hosting her family. Do you have any advice that could help make this season more relaxed and harmonious?
Yes, this sounds quite familiar. Stress around hosting, family, and the holidays is quite normal, and luckily, there are many tips and approaches for a smoother, easier time.
First, make sure the basics are covered- enough sleep, a balanced diet, and moderate exercise. These simple and routine tasks make up the essential foundation for proper health. In addition to this, there are some quick techniques that can be incorporated into the day. First, start off the day with a gentle relaxation exercise. Try yoga, tai chi, Qi gong, or meditation. A bath before or after a stressful time can also be very helpful- especially if candles, soothing music, and relaxing herbs- like lavender, ylang ylang, and patchouli are added. In the middle of the storm, try and encourage your wife to take breaks and go for a walk to get some fresh air. It will make for more productivity in the long run. Or, help her to take a few very intentional, slow, deep breaths.
On top of incorporating these activities into the daily routine, stress combating vitamins and herbs can be helpful sidekicks. A vitamin B complex (especially for vegetarians and vegans) can be very helpful in enhancing mood, reducing fatigue, and improving concentration. B vitamins, for the most part, can be found in meats, cheeses, eggs, and dark green leafy greens. Vitamin B-12 can be the trickiest for vegans and vegetarians to get enough of, but it can be found in nutritional yeast and fortified cereals and soy products. Vitamin C, in addition to helping ward off the season’s colds, has been shown to reduce blood levels of stress-related hormones like cortisol. Additionally, Omega 3 fatty acids will further help with hormone balance as well has mood enhancement. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in fish, nuts (especially walnuts), seeds (especially flaxseeds), beans and hemp oil.
There are many medicinal herbs that can help soothe the muscles, relax the mind, and calm the sympathetic nervous system. Some to highlight include Milky Oats, Tulsi (also known as holy basil), Skullcap, Kava Kava, Lemon Balm, St. John’s Wort, and Chamomile, though there are many more out there. One of the best ways to take these herbs is in tea- not only will it help the body internally, but it will also provide an aromatherapy benefit. The smell (the only sensory pathway connected directly to the brain without an intermediate processing center) of these herbs will trigger a quick relaxation within the mind and the body. Keep a glass of tea on hand as you work- and if you don’t want to blend the herbs yourself, there are companies that make tea blends in single use packets. Some that we carry at City Market include:
- Organic India Tulsi – with three variations of the plant
- Yogi Tea Relaxed Mind- with Sage, Lavender, Nettle, Skullcap, Chrysanthemum, Blackberry, Gotu Kola, Helichrysum, Shankpushpi, Lemon Myrtle
- Yogi Tea Stress Relief- Kava Kava, & other herbs for flavor
- Tazo Calm Chamomile- Chamomile, Hibiscus, Spearmint, Rose, Lemongrass, Blackberry, Peppermint, Sarsaparilla, Lemon balm, & Licorice
If tea is not preferred, there are also encapsulated options. Two of my favorite products are Mega Food’s Tension Release and New Chapter’s Stress Take Care. Both these products not only support a healthy response to stress, but they also contain herbs known to support brain health and energy regulation. City Market also has a variety of herbal tinctures (liquid extracts) to support stress regulation. A great one is Herb Pharm’s Nervous System Tonic with Skullcap, Milky Oats, St. John’s Wort, Celery Seed and Lavender.
Of course, one does not have to follow all of these tips to reduce stress levels. Try and recognize what your body needs, what you are most likely to use (and use consistently), or sample various products and exercises until you find one or a few that suite you. I hope that some of these ideas will fit your and your wife’s lifestyles.
Here’s to a relaxing & enjoyable holiday season!
The Health Genie
For more information on meditation and relaxation exercises:
For more information on herbal nervines: