Expectations are sky-high, to-do lists are miles long, and schedules are jam-packed. Dr. Randolph shares his tips for when holiday glee threatens to turn you into a grinch!
If you are a woman over 30 or man over 40, you are already at risk for shifts in hormonal production that can cause underlying hormonal imbalances, with symptoms like weight gain, memory loss, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, depression, loss of sexual desire and pleasure, and more. Add a little (or a lot!) of stress during the holidays, and the result is a vicious cycle where more stress leads to greater hormonal imbalance. Even the "good stress," that you feel during major events can sometimes become "dis-stress." The body goes into overdrive pumping out cortisol until the pump wears out. Other hormone imbalances can sometimes arise; your allergies or insomnia may get worse, and you may feel as if you catch every cold or flu bug that is going around.
What can you do? Dr. Randolph's "healthy habits" for coping with holiday stress:
1. Breathe. The holidays do not have to be perfect! It's easy to get drawn into the flurry of expectations. Every magazine at the grocery store, every commercial on TV, and every cheerful Facebook status you see can make you feel like you are never doing enough. When that happens, take a breather! Even spending 15 minutes alone to recharge can give you better perspective and more energy.
2. Learn to say no. Plan ahead and don't feel obligated to attend every event. Be selective and think of your energy and time as finite resources: what do you value most? When your grade-school kid asks you to read him a book while you're stressing about completing the holiday cards, remind yourself: what is the reason for the season?
3. Avoid the holiday food free-for-all. Overindulgence makes you feel more stress! You don't have to deprive yourself of all holiday foods, but practice moderation. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties to avoid going overboard on sweets. For other meals, eat for hormone balance: focus on foods that reduce your estrogen load, such as: cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus; citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits; foods with insoluble fiber like whole grains and carrots; and foods with lignans like flaxseed and sesame seed. (Learn more about foods for hormone balance in Dr. Randolph's book From Belly Fat to Belly Flat.)
4. Get some exercise! It's okay if you walk the shopping mall five times -- that counts, too! (Just wear comfortable shoes!) Ride a bike, walk around your neighborhood to look at the holiday lights, take a class at the gym, dance at the holiday party. Whatever you do, keep moving: don't let online holiday sales keep you glued to your laptop on the sofa all night and day.
5. Get enough sleep. This is one of the most important steps you can take to manage stress -- at any time of year.
Getting less than eight hours of sleep is likely to upset the balance of two important hormones: ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite. If you are not getting enough sleep, odds are that your ghrelin levels will shoot up -- making you feel constantly hungry -- while your leptin levels will plummet, causing you never to feel full. So instead of staying up late wrapping presents, snuggle in for a long winter's nap!
6. Get your hormones checked. Last, but not least, make an appointment today to have your hormones checked. Ideally, you should schedule this twice a year -- maybe holiday stress is a good reminder! What better gift can you give yourself than to help restore your hormonal equilibrium?
From all of us at Dr. Randolph's Ageless & Wellness Medical Center, we wish you a Happy Healthy Holiday!