How to Create a Stress-Busting Plan for Yourself (In Less than 10 Minutes a Day) This Holiday Season
November 9th 2020
by: Vincent Pedre M.D.
It’s November, which means it’s the official start of the holiday season! In our minds, this time of year is filled with cozy evenings at home, hearty stews and soups, and a sense of calm and relaxation. The reality, though, is often something very different. Many of us spend our holidays racing from one obligation to the next, becoming more sedentary as the weather turns colder, dealing with family and financial stress, as well as gaining the inevitable weight from all the holiday treats, stress eating, and holiday drinking.

Unfortunately, in 2020, this reality is even more stark. The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, the election, and all the typical end-of-year stressors has put many of my patients on edge, suffering from unrelenting anxiety about all the uncertainty, leaving their nervous systems feeling jumpy. I’m sure many of you share similar, if not the same feelings.

Over the last few months, I’ve heard patient after patient say that they’ve never felt so anxious.

And it’s not just in their heads, either. The physical manifestations of stress and anxiety are all too real. They’ve experienced racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, stomach aches, headaches, difficulty focusing, and even panic attacks. That’s why this week, for the first blog post in our Happy Gut® Gratitude Awareness Month, I want to talk about simple ways to feel more calm this holiday season with a stress-busting plan that only takes minutes to do every day.

The Truth About Holiday Stress and Weight Gain

Like I mentioned before, we often have an inaccurate picture of how amazing the holidays will be. Because while they are a time to connect with friends and family, they can also be hard on our body and minds. It’s supposed to be a time to slow down but many of us still have to work — and then try to pile on buying gifts, cooking extravagant meals, decorating the house, and spending more quality time with family. This can send us into a tailspin of anxiety and overwhelm.

The effect on our body is just as pronounced. Many people gain the dreaded holiday 10 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Not to mention the upset stomachs, bloating, fatigue, and irregular bowel movements resulting from over-indulging, lack of sleep, and excessive drinking.

In my mind, the underlying cause of all this are the dietary changes that occur during the holidays. We’re eating more sugar, drinking more alcohol, eating more simple carbs and less fiber and fewer vegetables. All these little shifts create the perfect storm for less resilience. Many people don’t think about the connection between diet and anxiety, but research has established a pretty clear link. For example:

Four Foods Linked To Anxiety & Mental Health

Sugar

Sugar

Alcohol

Alcohol

Trans Fats

Trans Fats

Refined Grains

Refined Grains

Sugar
Sugar: Studies have shown that sugar is intricately connected to mental health. In fact, one study published in 2017 showed that men with the highest intake of sugar had a 23% increased odds of a mental health disorder after 5 years. The authors concluded that “Our research confirms an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet food/beverage on long-term psychological health and suggests that lower intake of sugar may be associated with better psychological health.”
Alcohol
Alcohol: Alcohol may help quell anxiety in the short-term, but before you reach for that beer, cocktail, or glass of wine, you should know that studies have linked abstinence from alcohol to a lower risk of anxiety. And if you’re about to reach for a sugar-filled mixed cocktail, stop and go re-read the bullet point above!
Trans Fats
Trans fats: Trans fats — found in many packaged foods like cookies, crackers, cakes, and even peanut butter — have a proven effect on mental health. In one study, researchers showed that lower dietary trans fatty acid intake has beneficial effects on emotional affect, showing that participants who ate less trans fats had a more positive mental outlook. These fats are also terrible for your cardiovascular health, so they are best avoided completely.
Refined Grains
Refined grains: Refined grains, like those found in pastas, cakes, breads, and crackers, have been associated with increased anxiety levels. For example, one study found a significant positive association between higher refined grain consumption and depression and anxiety in women, but not men. Instead, I recommend getting your fiber from other sources or sticking to whole, unprocessed grains.

The Link Between Gut Health, Food, and Anxiety

Did you ever stop to think your anxiety might be fueled by the way you eat?

This might be the first time you’re connecting stress and anxiety with what you eat. You’re not alone! Conventional medicine fails to recognize this connection and we all suffer for it. Instead, wanting to put patients on medications that have only been shown to be effective fifty percent of the time.

But what explains the connection between what we eat and our anxiety levels? It’ll come as no surprise that, like so many things, it all comes back to the GUT.

The foods on the list above negatively impact the health of the gut microbiome, and as we already know, the bacteria in our gut play a significant role in our mental and emotional health.
More and more studies are showing that the gut microbiota can regulate brain function through the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is basically the connection between the gut and the brain and the reality that what’s bad for the gut is bad for the brain — and vice versa! Knowing this, it won’t surprise you to learn that studies are also showing that disruptions in your gut health, like dysbiosis, can lead to anxiety.

If you have a hunch that you’ve fallen victim to holiday stress caused by a gut microbiome imbalance, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever been midway through the holiday season and wondered why you feel so stressed, anxious, and unhealthy, it’s not just you. And it’s not your fault! For example, a gut microbiome yeast overgrowth, like candida, can lead to uncontrollable sugar cravings. Besides, the holidays create the perfect storm for poor lifestyle choices and leave very little time for self-care.

So, how can we get through the holidays without feeling it in our bellies, stress levels, and our waistlines? There are ways we can all decrease stress that won’t take much time out of our days. In fact, how about 10 minutes or less?

How to Create a Stress-Busting Plan for Yourself

(In Less than 10 Minutes a Day)

This month, instead of falling victim to holiday stress, overwhelm, and weight gain, let’s try something different — together. Here are 10 ways to bust stress in less than 10 minutes a day. If you’re feeling out of control right now, these tips are for you.

Of course, we didn’t want to add to your stress by overwhelming you with complicated action plans, so we came up with an array of options you can select from and fit into your lifestyle. All you have to do is commit to one daily.

Sit in Meditation

1. Sit in Meditation

Meditation is one of the most well-studied methods for reducing stress. And the good news is that unlike exercise or healthy eating, you can get the full benefits of meditation in just 10 minutes a day! I recommend downloading an app like Headspace or Calm to get started.

Jump on a Trampoline

2. Jump on a Trampoline

Jumping up and down brings out a playful, child-like part of us that we could all benefit from accessing this year. A trampoline, whether it be a full-sized one of a mini one (which you can buy on Amazon!), can help you shake off the stress of the day (or the year!) as well as help with cellular detoxification. I often describe it as a garbage dump for your cells! Plus, jumping on a trampoline enlivens and invigorates your body while releasing unnecessary stress.
Take a Probiotic

3. Take a Probiotic

As we learned earlier on, gut health and mental health are intricately connected. And one of the easiest ways to support gut health every day is by taking a probiotic supplement. Probiotics can help increase GABA in the brain, which is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps promote calm. If you don’t want to take a supplement, you can also make your daily snack a fermented food, like kefir, yogurt, or sauerkraut. After all, eating fermented foods has been shown to lower anxiety scores. IF you’re not sure where to start with fermented foods, check out my essential guide to fermentation.
Support Liver Detox with a Tea Break

4. Support Liver Detox with a Tea Break

You might not think that liver detox is possible over the holidays, but the truth is, you can support liver detox in less than 10-minutes a day by simply switching your coffee out for green tea. Green tea is chock full of antioxidants that improve liver enzyme levels and reduce the toxic burden on the body. Plus, the L-theanine in green tea also promotes a sense of calm, which is something we could all use a little extra of these days! Trading coffee for green tea during stressful times is one big win for your liver and your nervous system.
Take a Tech Timeout

5. Take a Tech Time Out

Have you considered how much time you spend on your smartphone and laptop/computer weekly? You might not think that 10 minutes away from your phone and computer would do much, but you’ll be surprised when you try it out. I recommend putting your phone in a drawer and then sitting quietly or taking a mindful walk outside. Imagine that… going for a walk with your mobile phone!?! Or having a fully-engaged conversation with a friend, spouse or loved one without the distraction of looking at your phone? Studies show being present and listening lower the stress hormone, cortisol.
Have a Dance Party

6. Have a Dance Party

Dancing is a proven method for decreasing stress. In fact, one study showed that dancing could reduce anxiety and depression and improve quality life among elderly adults. Unfortunately, this year has been lacking in weddings, nights out, and gatherings with friends. The good news is that all you need for a good dance party is you and some music. So put on your favorite artist and dance your stress away!
Laugh

7. Laugh

Laughter is like a direct antidote to stress, anxiety, and fear and works by increasing the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters like oxytocin in your brain. And that’s not all laughter does, either. Laughing also enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air and stimulates organs like your heart, lungs, and gut from the spontaneous contraction of your abdominal muscles. Even when the world is at its most bleak, there’s always funny cat videos and comedy specials that can have you rolling on the floor in no time.
Play

8. Play

When we’re kids, we play all the time. But as adults, we often lose that important part of ourselves and we suffer for it! This holiday season, I strongly recommend carving out a few minutes of time each day to play. Go kick a ball around, run around with your kids, play fetch with your pet, play a game, laugh until your stomach hurts, and access that child-like energy that is all about FUN.
Do a Quick HIIT

9. Do a Quick HIIT

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, a type of workout that’s amazing for decreasing stress and improving cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that a HIIT workout is effective as an acute intervention for depression and anxiety, which means they work right away and you don’t have to wait weeks to see the results. In just 10-minutes, you can start feeling calmer and more relaxed! Try this 10-minute HIIT Workout video from PopSugar Fitness.

10. Reset the Gut

You may think that resetting the gut, beating the bloat, and breaking through that stubborn weight plateau takes a long time, but actually you can do it in less than 10 minutes a day with my 7-Day Happy Gut® Detox. If you want an easy, stress-free weight-busting plan that includes breakfast and dinner smoothie meal replacements that only take 5 — 10 minutes to put together, I designed this plan just for you. All the smoothie recipes are really simple, so it can save you time, money, and stress. This is one sure-fire way to uplevel your resilience to stress this year.
I challenge you to choose one of the above options and commit to it daily.

The fact is this year the holidays are going to look a little different, so it’s particularly important to create a stress-busting plan for yourself. The good news is that in less than 10 minutes a day, you can make a serious dent in your holiday stress levels, weight gain, and gut health disruption.

Which one(s) would you choose???

Let me know in the comments below…

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