Festive music, beautiful decorations, and family gatherings… oh how I love the holiday season. I really enjoy the Christmas parties, getting together with family and friends for Thanksgiving, and of course the Black Friday shopping for gifts. It’s a great way to create memories with my husband, Xavier, and our daughter, Elle. While there’s a lot to enjoy, having stress-free holidays can be difficult for all of us, including me. 

The holiday season presents many demands on us all. Some of the most common include cooking meals, entertaining guests, and the hustle of holiday shopping. Trying to stay healthy and follow a strict diet can even add more stress, especially if you’re trying to navigate parties full of sugary treats and alcohol. 

Managing holiday stress and anxiety is challenging for many of us this time of year. Stress directly impacts your gut health, it’s more important than ever to find ways to keep your stress levels low and your holiday cheer high. 

Let me share my tried and true tips for managing holiday stress and anxiety so that you can enjoy the holiday season. 

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7 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

If you already struggle with stress, the holidays seem to have a special way of adding to it. Unfortunately, chronic stress can contribute to a plethora of health concerns. Some of these include leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, heart disease, anxiety, and an array of autoimmune conditions

Here are seven ways to effectively manage your holiday stress so you can enjoy this joyful time of year.

Dr. Myers' Tips for Stree-Free Holidays – Infographic – Amy Myers MDDr. Myers' Tips for Stree-Free Holidays - Infographic - Amy Myers MD https://content.amymyersmd.com/article/gut-healthy-stress-free-holidays/stress free holidays – infographic – Amy Myers MD® 

1. Commit to Your Health

If you’ve spent the year taking back your health by changing your lifestyle and diet, you don’t want to derail all your progress. I know firsthand how hard work and dedication it takes to stay committed to your health goals. 

With the holiday season comes many temptations with delicious sweet treats and cocktails at all the holiday parties and in your office. Staying committed to your health can be challenging with all these temptations and holiday anxiety. One of the best ways to manage holiday stress and anxiety is to remain committed to your health and prepare ahead of time to avoid temptation. 

It’s not the end of the world if you indulge in that occasional holiday cookie or cocktail. However, repeated indulgences can derail the progress you have made. One way to stay committed is to create a healthy dish to take with you to the holiday party. Try these healthy holiday treats that are AIP and Paleo diet friendly. 

2. Limit Sugar, Starch and Alcohol

It’s a safe bet that sugary treats, starchy foods, and alcohol will be everywhere during this time of year. From my experience, most of the cookies, dinners, and drinks are typically not gluten-free holiday recipes. 

We are already consuming far more significant quantities of sugar than we were designed to handle. Your body doesn’t need all the quick, intense bursts of energy that sugar provides. After all, we aren’t running away from animals trying to eat us like our ancestors were. 

Let me reiterate that having the occasional sweet treat or drink is okay. That said, try to keep your sugar and alcohol intake to a minimum. Even if you’ve completed a 30-day elimination diet and aren’t sensitive to sugar, alcohol, and starches, these foods are still toxic. They can lead to autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, heart disease, Candida overgrowth, and SIBO, which are fueled by high-carb foods such as sugar, starches, and alcohol.

If you’re prone to Candida overgrowth or SIBO, I recommend Candifense® and Caprylic Acid. The enzymes in Candifense® create an inhospitable environment for yeast overgrowth in the gut. It is a safe, effective and gentle approach to maintaining a healthy balance of microflora throughout the digestive tract. This can come in handy, especially when holiday anxiety can disrupt the microorganisms that live in your gut.

I also recommend that instead of Candida-feeding alcoholic drinks, make “mocktails” such as this Cucumber “Cocktail” with Ginger, Lemon, and Fresh Mint Leaves. It will allow you to stay healthy and feel like you’re part of the fun!

3. Pack Healthy Snacks and Holiday Foods 

As fun as Christmas parties, traveling for Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping, and other events are, at times they can lead to a lot of anxiety and stress. One of the best ways to manage holiday stress is to prepare ahead of time. For example, if you’re traveling to a party, pack a couple of healthy holiday foods. This will make it easier to turn down food that could derail your progress. 

Preparing snacks isn’t exclusive to travel. One way I like to manage holiday stress is to prepare to-go snacks. This comes in handy, especially if you’re spending the day Black Friday shopping or taking your little ones to see Santa Claus. My go-to snacks for on-the-go include Coconut-Chocolate Energy Bites and Gluten-Free Garlic Rosemary Crackers

A lot of holiday stress can increase with the idea of going to a party or eating out. You may be tempted to avoid social situations because of the fear of there being foods you are sensitive to. You may also be afraid of not having enough healthy holiday food options. Don’t worry! I’m here to tell you that you can eat various kinds of food and still live healthily.

If you’re going to a party, ask the host what foods will be served and offer to bring something such as this AIP Blueberry Crisp. Take a healthy dish such as this AIP Charcuterie Board with Tzatziki Dip if it’s a potluck. Being prepared with healthy holiday foods is a great way to enjoy social gatherings without the stress or guilt!

4. Set Aside Time for You

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family and friends. At the same time, making time for yourself is essential to lower the effects of holiday stress. I know it can be hard with so much demanding your time. However, even something simple as taking a bath, going for a short walk, or meditating for 30 minutes can help promote a healthy stress response

Set aside time daily to do something that helps you unwind. Some of my favorite activities to help manage holiday stress include: 

  • Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts
  • Meditating and breathing exercises help calm my holiday anxiety and ease holiday stress. I like to use the app HeartMath. 
  • Dancing 
  • Listening to music
  • Spend 30 minutes a day in my Sunlighten Sauna
  • Reading a book

There are many ways to take time for yourself to manage holiday stress. Find something you enjoy doing and set aside time for yourself to do it. No matter how busy you think you are, you can find pockets of time to devote to yourself.

5. Unplug

We live in a “smart” world where many gadgets are wireless. From phones to computers, smartwatches, and Bluetooth devices, the world is becoming increasingly connected. While this has many benefits it can intensify your holiday stress.

Many of us like to watch holiday movies, scroll through social media, or use our computers to catch some last-minute inspiration before bed. The problem with this is that these devices emit blue light, which can disrupt healthy sleep cycles. The noise, chatter, and notification bells bombard us at all hours of the day. This chronic exposure can delay your circadian rhythm in the evening, which needs to be able to wind down to benefit from a good night’s sleep.

6. Know When to Say No

I have a hard time saying no to things, especially during the holidays. With so much demand on your time, it can be challenging to turn an invitation down. Saying yes all the time might seem like you’re being open-minded, flexible, or fun. The truth is it can lead to even more unwanted holiday stress. 

Setting boundaries and saying “no” will help you manage holiday stress and enjoy more memorable moments. Keeping a calendar can make it easier to stick to a plan and avoid adding anything extra.

It’s easy to rearrange your calendar to try to please everyone. I’ve done that so many times. The problem is that stretching yourself too thin doesn’t serve anyone. If you find yourself sacrificing time with your family, losing sleep, or stressing over an already busy calendar, it’s time to reprioritize. 

7. Create Reasonable Expectations

Another excellent way to manage holiday stress is to create reasonable expectations. It’s easy to believe you’re Superwoman or Superman. You work until the task is done, even if that means no breaks. You often overestimate how much time you have to get something done, or feel you are there for others with your willingness to help.

While this is commendable, you only have so much time, energy, and resources available to you. To prevent overpromising and underdelivering, here are a few tips to help you set reasonable expectations to manage holiday stress: 

  • Anticipate something will go wrong. 
  • Know that you will feel tired after staying late at a holiday party or with friends, and don’t make any taxing plans the following day. 
  • Set your expectations for just you. You cannot control other people. 
  • Focus on what you can control – your time and yourself. 
  • Let go of what you can’t control – people’s perception of you, weather phenomena, or emergencies.

Bonus Tip: Prioritize Sleep 

Since it’s the holidays, and I’m in the giving spirit, I wanted to offer one huge bonus tip to help manage holiday stress and anxiety: Sleep! 

Sleep is essential to help reduce the effects of holiday stress. Ideally, you spend at least a third of your life asleep. However, that cannot be easy during the holiday season, and I have been there. That is why I formulated Rest and Restore™ or Rest and Restore Max™ to support optimal sleep for a good night’s rest. 

Rest and Restore™ or Rest and Restore Max™ includes a blend of PharmaGABA®, L-Theanine, Magnesium, and Glycine to support relaxation and a healthy night’s sleep optimally. Rest and Restore Max™ also features melatonin, valerian root, and 5-Hydroxytryptophan. These three ingredients help facilitate healthy sleep patterns in those who have difficulty falling and staying asleep 

Getting enough sleep helps make the rest of these tips easier to accomplish. You can think more clearly and plan your time better when you’re well-rested. 

The Final Word

The holidays can be tough, but they can also be some of the best times. In all the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving dinners, Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) shopping, and Christmas gatherings, let’s remember the reason for the season. 

Be mindful of your blessings, the wonderful and supportive people in your life, and everything that brings you joy. Giving and receiving appreciation is one of the best gifts you can give someone. It’s simple and meaningful in all the ways that matter most. 

My entire team, Xavier, Elle, Mac, Mocha, and I, wish you and your families a stress-free holiday season!