Another year down—December is finally here! With the holidays come some of the happiest and most memorable moments of the year. Even though this time comes with many celebrations, feasts and family time, it isn’t always fun and games.
Many years ago, we began the mission of providing nutrient dense foods to help those on health and self awareness journeys. We passionately continue to do this in an effort to help our community eat better so they can make better decisions and live longer. The last few years have been rough for everyone and now that society is getting back into a “new normal” swing of things, the inevitable stress of work life, holidays and family obligations is coming on strong.
, the months of December through March see a dramatic spike in flu cases. The cold weather certainly has something to do with it, but does that tell the full story? Especially in sunny southern California, we shouldn’t expect our mild climate to deal that much of a blow to our immune systems.
What’s really going on? You guessed it: stress.
that cortisol, the primary hormone responsible for stress, releases energy-supplying glucose and limits infection-fighting white blood cells. This makes sense on a primal basis—in a “fight-or-flight” situation, our bodies prioritize glucose production over immune function. But in the modern world, our stress response is triggered by work, relationships, and all of those little things that we think about late into the night. This makes it easier for our bodies to produce too much cortisol, leading to chronic stress.
Not only that, but cortisol has been shown to suppress the digestive system boosting our susceptibility to GI issues and uncomfortable
A Note From Our Director of Nutrition, Elizabeth Chiappellone:
"Working with Erewhon’s Nutrition Department for the last three years has taught me one of the most important things - self care is an absolute must!! If your body is not in tip top shape then everything falls by the wayside. The nutrition program I went through prior to Erewhon trained me on adrenal support and how stress can cause inflammation, but now I know there is so much more involved. From the immune system and sleep support to brain function and energy production - it’s all connected. Learning what foods, supplements and practices support stress is one of the greatest tools we have for radiant living!"
After talking with our nutrition expert Elizabeth, we came up with a few ways you can update your routine to ensure you’re combating stress and showing up as your best self this holiday season.
Stress is a natural response, and we believe in taking a natural approach to curbing its effects. That means supplementing our diets and incorporating mindfulness techniques.
- B-Complex — Adding a B-Complex supplement allows us to get all eight B vitamins in a single tablet. Not only does B-Complex help the body transform food into usable energy, it regulates an amino acid called homocysteine, which has been linked to chronic stress. If you want to get your dose of B vitamins through diet, try consuming more grains, meats, legumes, dairy products, and leafy greens.
- Ashwagandha — Ashwagandha is a pillar of Ayurveda, India’s ancient practice of medicine. Rather than treating symptoms, it operates on a preventative basis by maintaining a balance between mind, body, and nature. A natural anti-inflammatory agent, ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol while increasing fertility, memory, and sleep habits. In recent years, nutritional scientists have linked Ashwagandha intake to reduced stress. In one study, Ashwagandha consumers experienced a 23% decrease in cortisol levels.
- Rhodiola Rosea — Native to Russia and Asia, Rhodiola Rosea is known for its bright, golden blooms and its homeopathic properties. As an adaptogen, it gently stimulates stress receptors, making the body more resilient to the factors that trigger stress. While this herb has been used in eastern medicine for thousands of years, western science is beginning to reflect its therapeutic abilities. One study demonstrated improved sleeping habits and cognition for those who supplemented their diets with Rhodiola Rosea.
- Magnesium — In mineral form, magnesium is the key to metabolism, producing energy, and building proteins. Our bodies cannot create it on their own, which means that we have to obtain it by consuming supplements, legumes, nuts, or leafy vegetables. Shockingly, nearly 50% of people in the United States aren’t getting enough magnesium. In addition to allowing our bodies to function, consuming a healthy dose of magnesium is associated with reduced stress and improved mood. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that over fifty percent of people who supplement with magnesium experience lower levels of anxiety.
- Deep Breathing — There’s a reason why focusing on breath is a cornerstone of yoga, martial arts, and meditation. Though we may not always be thinking about it, our breath is one of the few constants in our lives. In fact, the circulation of oxygen throughout our bodies is the locomotive that keeps everything moving. Focusing on our breathing patterns can produce instant stress relief. In recent years, western science has found an explanation for that benefit. Studies show that deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, a structure that regulates the activity of internal organs and allows us to feel relaxed.
- Body Scanning — When we’re feeling stressed, we’re commonly fixated on an undesirable part of our lives. The more that we obsess over that stressor, the more intimidating it seems. Body scanning is a great way to shift our perspective away from the little things that feel overwhelming. Starting with the soles of your feet, focus your attention on a singular body part and take a mental log of what you feel. Gradually move up the body, relaxing every part that you feel along the way. You may be surprised how good you’ll feel after just a few minutes!
- Slowing Down — Especially in the western world, we’re taught to rush through life as we balance our responsibilities. Most of us have experienced what psychologists are calling “hurry sickness.” Not only does this mindset prevent us from being at our best, it’s the perfect recipe for increased stress. Slowing down can take many forms in our daily lives. Whether it’s allowing ourselves to sleep longer, stretching, savoring our meals, or practicing positive affirmation, taking more time for ourselves may be the key to shedding stress.
All of us are prone to stress, but that doesn’t mean it has to control us. Let’s kick off this holiday season by destressing the holistic way and focusing on what matters most!