The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration.  Unfortunately, it can also bring unexpected feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.  At this time of year, our busy schedules become packed with commitments, our bodies are exposed to the cold of winter, and the holiday treats make it more difficult to eat healthy.  Learning how your body copes with this added stress can help ensure a healthy holiday season and can kick start your New Year with optimal energy and peace of mind.  Prolonged exposure to a fast-paced lifestyle decreases your ability to handle the normal ups and downs of everyday life.  Without daily coping mechanisms in place, there is increased risk of developing stress-related illnesses and symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, sugar cravings and low immune function.  There are three main stages that the body experiences in response to stress.

Alarm Stage “Fight or Flight”

This first stage is your body’s immediate reaction to a stressor. The adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body for a short burst of physical activity.

Signs and Symptoms: bursts of energy, increased heart rate, decreased digestive function and lowered immunity.

Resistance Stage “Tired but Wired”

During this stage, higher than normal levels of cortisol are maintained to help convert nutrient stores into energy, and therefore help the body adapt to stress. However, increased cortisol production over long periods of time has a negative impact on health.

Signs and Symptoms: high blood pressure, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, difficulty loosing weight, acne, infertility, high cholesterol, blood sugar imbalances, chronic pain.

Adrenal Exhaustion “Burn Out”

When you reach this stage, the body’s reserves are depleted and you can no longer effectively respond to stress.  There is decreased output of cortisol and increased susceptibility to infection.

Signs and Symptoms: fatigue (especially in the morning), low blood pressure, frequent colds and flu, depression, low sex drive, allergies, decreased exercise recovery.

Basic healthy lifestyle habits can help manage your body’s response to stress.  Some key lifestyle tips include: keeping regular sleep cycles, participating in restorative exercise (yoga, snowshoeing, skating, and resistance training), eating adequate protein, avoiding refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar and processed foods), and practicing deep breathing exercises.

A Naturopathic Doctor can recommend further interventions that balance the negative effects of stress.  An individualized treatment plan is created after a comprehensive health assessment that includes an extensive health history, a physical exam and relevant lab tests.  Naturopathic care includes the use of herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, dietary modifications, homeopathy, acupuncture, and lifestyle counseling.

Contact Naturally Well today to learn more about how Naturopathic Medicine can help make this holiday season a balanced and enjoyable one!