When you think about the upcoming holidays, do you feel anxious and uneasy or happy and excited? Does your heart pound and mind race with details of the gathering that you plan to be the best ever?  For most of us, we look forward to what should be a slower more peaceful time of the year, however more often the reality is that it’s very busy and not so peaceful. There are extra errands to run for that perfect gift and chores to do in preparation of our house guests, add that to our day to day responsibilities and you have HOLIDAY STRESS.

Holiday stress like traditional stress, signals a fight or flight response from the central nervous system. The brain communicates to the hypothalamus, which alerts the adrenal glands, to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When immediate stress is over, the central nervous system tells the body to return to its normal state. However, if the body cannot return to its normal state because the stressor (the holiday season) is still present or there was no physical release of these hormones, they will build up in the system and cause havoc to the mind and body.

Our body in response to the added responsibilities of the holidays will go into overdrive and release additional cortisol and adrenaline to help us adapt. In the short term this may be helpful, but if we don’t manage it head on we are setting ourselves up for what could be a challenging start to a healthy new year.

Here are 3 ways to help combat and meet the effects of stress head on so that it does not interrupt the spirit of the upcoming holidays. 

Eat foods that lower stress

  • Steel Cut Oatmeal boosts the levels of Serotonin and calms the central nervous system
  • Oranges decrease levels of the stress hormones and strengthen the immune system
  • Spinach and leafy greens contain magnesium which can help fight stress, headaches, and fatigue
  • Omega 3 fatty fish can prevent surges of the stress hormones and fight against winter depression
  • Avocados high in potassium reduce high blood pressure and can curve your craving for a high-fat treat this holiday season
  • Almonds are full of many vitamins including Vitamin E to boost your immune system and can make you more resilient to holiday stress and depression


  • We all know that exercise is important and during this holiday season probably a little more challenging to get to the gym. But even 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity a couple times a week; (i.e.  walking, running, or the elliptical) will help the body recreate the “flight” response releasing the stress hormones and decreasing the cortisol levels in our body. Can’t fit 20 minutes that into your day?  Break it up , do stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, park a good distance away from the front of the store. Every little bit helps.

Take some time to breath and be mindful

  • It may seem like the impossible to take 5 minutes during this season for yourself, but research shows that giving yourself time to “just be” will help bring you back to the present where you can make more conscious sound decisions.  It can also help you relax and decompress during stressful times by slowing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and decreasing your cortisol levels.

Make this the year that you enjoy your holidays and go into the new year feeling healthy and prepared instead of making that your new years resolution.

Cortisol: Why”The Stress Hormone “ is Public Enemy NO.1/ Psychology today.com  Jan, 22, 2013
Slideshow:Stress-Reducing Foods –MedicineNet.com Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on June 24, 2016

This article was written by Donna Taylor, Integrative Health Coach as a part of IBJI’s OrthoHealth Holiday Resources.