It’s here, it’s really here!
The holidays have a way of invoking ALL of the feelings, from excitement, to joy, to loneliness, to stress and dread. While I personally look forward to the holidays each year, I also experience plenty of overwhelm, typically elevated by busier schedules, more parties/alcohol, less sleep and the pressure to get everyone the PERFECT gift.
While I’m not quite sure what this year will bring (at least as far as holiday gatherings, seeing the majority of family and travel goes), I do know it’s now just as important as ever to protect our health and support our hormones during these times.
So read below for my favorite simple, realistic and actionable tips you can incorporate into your schedule during the holiday season.
For many of us, the holidays can be particularly stressful due to the desire/pressure to indulge in all of the holiday foods and beverages. While it’s fun to partake, it often leaves us feeling lethargic and bloated, and can impact everything from our sleep, to our mood, to our motivation and sex drive (all components of hormonal function/health).
This is where I love to dole out one of my tried and true holiday mantras — mindfully enjoy the holiday foods you love, and pass on those you don’t.
Oftentimes I’ll have clients make a list and write out all of the holiday foods they absolutely love and look forward to every single year. Traditions like their grandma’s pumpkin pie or baking chocolate thumbprint cookies (or for me personally Sweet Potato Casserole and dark chocolate fudge). Any food that feels special, or like you feel you’d be missing out on the holiday season if you didn’t enjoy can be added to this list. Then I tell clients to give themselves permission to mindfully indulge in any of these favorite foods, without ANY guilt.
On the flip side, they’re also instructed to write out the holiday foods they don’t really care about (or even think about) but will end up mindlessly snacking on because they’re there, only to feel sick and stuffed afterwards. I then tell them to limit or pass on these foods as much as possible, as they are simply clutter foods taking up space that could instead be used for the foods they truly love.
You can try this practice by writing out an actual list (the act of writing it down can be extremely instrumental/motivational in sticking to your goals) or you can just use this mantra to help you be more mindful of what you indulge in.
Either way, the less clutter foods you consume, the more room you’ll have to mindfully indulge in the foods you truly love this holiday season, leading to more joy and hopefully less tummy troubles.
Speaking of tummy troubles, if you really want to make a positive impact on your gut and hormones this season, try upgrading the traditional recipes you love with a healthy twist.
I absolutely love this challenge, and will find ways to make even the most decadent recipes more nutrient-dense and less inflammatory, which will help your hormones function, keeping you feeling and looking your best as a result.
While not every swap may suit your needs, most of these will work as successful substitutes in many of your favorite traditional recipes, from mashed potatoes to cranberry sauce to Christmas cookies. If you need more ideas, check out my 2020 Healthy Holiday Recipe Roundup.
There’s no way around it, proper hydration is crucial for every aspect of vitality and health, and all of our organs (especially our brains) depend on water to function optimally. Low levels of hydration can weaken your adrenals and hinder your body’s ability to eliminate harmful toxins and excess hormones.
While it’s important to ensure you’re drinking enough water (at least half your body weight in fluid oz) it’s equally as important to minimize dehydrating substances like caffeine and alcohol, which deplete your body of micronutrients it needs to produce hormones and reduce inflammation and stress in the body.
Because this can be tough during the holidays, I advise clients to try and load up on water during the day before parties or nights they know they’ll be consuming alcohol, and try to remember to drink a glass of water in between every beverage consumed.
Whether it be a result of the travel, house guests, busier schedules, indulgent food, more alcohol, or unpredictable weather, the holidays have a way of hindering healthy habits and distracting us from the routines that keep us feeling our best, physically and mentally.
This is why I think this time of year can be incredibly beneficial to incorporate morning and nightly rituals. I find them grounding and fundamental to living your days more intentionally, even during the busy holiday season. I also find it so comforting that no matter how the day goes (in a million different directions) you always have the choice to choose how you want to start and end each day, and for me, that’s on a positive note.
Write down or visualize how you’d ideally want to start and end your day, no matter how crazy they get. Do you want to feel gratitude and joy in the mornings? Perhaps try incorporating journaling, a gratitude list or a quick workout that boosts your serotonin (feel good hormone) each morning. Looking to feel calm and relaxed at night? Then some deep breathing exercises or a calming meditation, a drop of CBD or epsom salt bath could do just the trick. The important thing is to build in consistent habits that help you feel the way you want to feel and create the life you want to live. This will impact your hormones in a myriad of ways, from lowering stress hormone cortisol to improving sleep hormone melatonin. Truly it’s the smallest actions that overtime, yield the biggest results with your hormones and health.
While it can be tough to stick with your normal exercise routine during the holidays (due to travel, different schedules, unpredictable weather, hangovers, etc.) it’s now easier (hi online classes) and more important than ever to get in some form of movement most days.
In fact consistent exercise and movement contributes to improved insulin regulation and sensitivity while decreasing stress and inflammation, all of which is important for optimal hormone health. It’s been shown to be highly effective at increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine, feel-good hormones crucial for your mood, motivation and mental health.
Try building some sort of movement into your daily routine (walking outside if you can, streaming a workout class, etc.) in whatever way feels right for you. If you can, try cycle-syncing your workouts by doing more HIIT during the first half of your cycle and low-impact workouts like yoga, walking or stretching the second half, which will work to lower stress while increasing visceral fat loss.
Incorporating grounding practices like breath work, mindfulness and meditation helps us tap into our parasympathetic nervous system (aka our rest and digest mode) and works to reduce cortisol levels, optimize sleep and promote balance in the body.
We often underestimate the power of our breath, but I love tapping into this option as it’s free, on demand at any moment and works almost immediately to help you feel more calm and centered. I love using guided meditation apps like Headspace, Oak or Insight Timer, as well as simple breath work techniques like the 4-7-8 method.
While there are plenty of holiday traditions out there that might not leave us feeling so great (i.e. one too many hot toddies/jam dots) there are also tons to tap into that positively impact our hormones and health (and don’t revolve around food or booze).
Think getting outside to pick out your Christmas tree (numerous scientific studies report spending just 20 minutes in nature works to reduce stress levels in the body), playing games (connection and intimacy is also extremely effective at reducing stress) or giving back to others by donating to a cause you care about (see more on that below).
Focus on the things you can do that remind you of what you love about the holiday season (the connection, the music, the decorations, the caring for others) that leave you feeling good physically, mentally and emotionally.
Numerous studies show that a simple act of generosity can boost both physical and mental health. Specifically, it drives the production of mood-boosting hormones like serotonin (connected to optimal sleep, happiness and digestion), dopamine (linked to motivation and libido) and oxytocin (drives feelings of bonding/love/connection).
The more we increase the production of these hormones, the likelier we are to experience numerous health benefits, from lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression to increased self-esteem, happiness and satisfaction, and even lifespan.
There are plenty of safe and simple ways you can give back to others, from donating to an organization or local charity, to dropping off a meal on someone’s doorstep, to sending someone a simple handwritten note or card. When in doubt, I like to think of simple ways I feel loved and appreciated, then do those things for others. It’s an instant joy-giver, every time.
Sunlight is the most abundant natural source of vitamin D, which is crucial for maintaining balanced hormones and an optimal menstrual cycle through regulating the production of both estrogen and progesterone (not to mention a critical nutrient for fertility). Getting sunlight exposure first thing in the morning also works to set your circadian rhythm, promoting an optimal sleep/wake cycle. ⠀
If weather allows, try taking a quick walk in the morning first thing, or even bringing your workout outdoors. If you live somewhere that might not always be an option (like me in the rainy/cold PNW) aim for bundled up walks whenever you can, or even just open up a window and sit next to it for a few minutes.
Sure the holidays can be stressful and sometimes have a less than optimal effect on our hormones and health, but there are plenty of simple tools and practices out there to empower you to truly enjoy and embrace the holiday season, while also feeling and looking your best. When in doubt, try leaning on any of the activities listed above, and remember to have grace and compassion with yourself and others!
I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.