It happens every year without fail. One moment, I am blissfully settled into the rhythm of the summer, with our elongated days of early sunrises and late sunsets, energized by the seemingly extra hours in each day.
Time moves slowly, schedules are easier with more time for beach trips, barbeques with family and friends, tennis and long walks, gardening and spending as much time as possible outside soaking up the sun’ s warming rays(and generous doses of natural vitamin D).
The shortening of each day is almost imperceptible but soon I am aware that I am waking up in the dark(I am one of those early morning “nuts” who exercises while most people are contemplating an extra 30 minutes of sleep) and coming home from work in the dark. Which means only one thing: the holidays are coming!
Honestly, I love the holidays: the extra time spent with family, friends, roasting turkeys, holiday baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping , etc. But I have to admit, I do get a bit stressed out while contemplating all that I need to accomplish, on top of my usual life’s schedule(which is already pretty busy, like most of us). And stress has a distinct impact on our bodies’ abilities to stay in balance.
Stress is actually an essential element of living: our bodies were made to respond to stimuli, both negative and positive, in order to react and grow and adapt to life’s many challenges. A classic example that is used to describe how stress helps us is this: in our cave dwelling days, if I was out looking for food for my family and I encountered a wild boar, my adrenals would produce a burst of cortisol, which then released glucose from storage for fuel and epinephrine which allows my heart rate and blood pressure to increase(fight or flight response) so that I could run like crazy to avoid becoming said boar’s dinner. That is an adaptive response to a stressful situation. Our bodies have evolved to respond to episodic bouts of stress. Sadly, in our modern world, we are bombarded with a multitude of stressors: work, financial, relationship, less than optimal diets, chemicals, pollution, noise, world affairs, you name it. Oh yes, and holidays….
In response to chronic, repeated stressors, our bodies no longer need the glucose, or fuel, to run from danger so we store this fuel as fat just in case we need it later. Many of us begin to develop anxiety and insomnia, because our cortisol rhythms get disrupted and our body has lost its way back to balance. This is obviously a maladaptive response with far-reaching effects on our physical and mental health.
Here are some suggestions to help you beat the stress and stay in balance during these next 35 days and beyond.
Exercise: aim for 4-5 times/week: find something you enjoy; the rewards are higher metabolic rate, endorphin release(boosts mood and helps decrease inflammation); My next blog post will talk about specific types of exercise and how each one benefits you.
Nutrition: “Just say no to whites”: try to avoid foods made with white sugar, white flour, white rice and even white potatoes(okay, youcan have some mashed potatoes this Thursday but be sure to eat the yams as well). The whites are almost completely without nutritional value, even if it says “fortified” and your body recognizes them as a source of sugar. Overindulgence of sugar raises your risk of high cholesterol, belly fat, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, just to name a few. Choose whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, agave , stevia, amaranth. Nuts are loaded with micronutrients: eat a small handful everyday. Set a goal for yourself: try something new every week. Choose dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits. Drink herbal teas and water, lots of it
Supplements: be sure to take Vitamin D everyday . It is best to get tested first: the normal range is 30-100. I recommend that my patients take enough D3 to bring their levels up to between 50-70(I retest 3 months after they start the new dose, just to make sure). Vitamin D boosts your immune system(you won’t catch everything this winter), helps you stave off winter blues, and a myriad of other health benefits: watch for a future blog post about this amazing vitamin). If you are having a particularly bad day, try some Rescue Remedy. This is a “Bach flower” remedy that helps alleviate anxiety and nervousness, restoring a feeling of calm. It is so effective that even veterinarians recommend it for anxious dogs. It is a terrific go-t0 supplement. I never leave home without it!
Sleep and rest: It goes without saying that our bodies need to recharge and restore themselves. Each day carve out some time to be alone, with your thoughts, your prayers, to reflect away from all of the noise and distractions of daily living. And be sure to get enough sleep, at minimum 7 hours. Your body and your brain need that much rest to be ready to face the next day and be able to function optimally.
Try to keep everything in perspective these next weeks and reflect back to the meanings of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Take time to enjoy the hours spent with family and friends and create new and everlasting memories. And remember this essential truth:
Finding, being and staying in balance is a work in progress.
So much to talk about, so little time. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
See you soon.