5 ways to beat the holiday blues

Holiday blues are defined as depressive feelings throughout the holidays (1), believed to be the result of our momentum of excitement  spinning us in an alternate direction.  Psychology Today defines possible symptoms as “headaches, insomnia, uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems, and unnecessary conflict with family and friends”(1).  These can also stem from other causes and as such should be consulted upon with your health care practitioner should they become significantly prominent and out of character for you. Below are some tips to avoid / mitigate some of these symptoms.


1. Always be preparedhealthy life sign

2. Invest in a headlamp

3. Eat lots of protein

4. Do your Christmas shopping in November

5. Support your adrenals – Now




1. Always be prepared!  Knowing yourself and your tendencies will help you in life, because you will become more alert to your triggers and how to manage them.  Are you the kind of person who can’t say no and hosts or goes to every holiday party until you’ve overextend yourself into exhaustion by January 1st? Accept your tendencies and modify them so they don’t send you overboard.


2. Invest in a headlamp – this may sound strange but for those of you non-equatorial residing readers, darkness in the morning and at night is the name of the game here in Calgary between late fall / early spring, isn’t it?  Exercise or more simply regular movement of the body is so important for overall health, as is being outside.  Dress accordingly and put the head lamp on and walk this winter.  Walk often.  Walking is linked to overall reduction in mortality (2,3), it’s a key component in the lives of centurions (those who live over 100).  Regardless of your age, make walking – any walking but preferably outside, a part of your life.  Better yet, when out walking on a clear night with a full moon, turn your headlamp off and gaze at the moon and constellations, you’ll feel pretty awesome. (Do always make sure you wear weather appropriate clothing and footwear).  Headlamps are available at most sporting good stores, including Mountain Equipment Co op (MEC) .

Lady runner in the cold


3. Eat lots of protein – a lot of our society spends a large chunk of time in a various forms of chronic panic.  The stress of a constant go-go-go lifestyle, even if its enjoyable, is demanding on the body.  Protein is used to help repair and restore the body.  During times of stress (ie holidays) your body uses plenty of protein derived amino acids to get the job done.  During times of rest (ie holidays) helping the body catch up on some well needed repairs is a great idea. Better yet double up on that protein filled option at the buffet rather then that second cupcake.  Protein helps to balance spikes in blood sugar from sugary foods can contribute to feeling of depression and fatigue.


4. Do your Christmas Shopping in November – if you haven’t already.  Financial stress = stress and therefore is a component of health.  Make a budget that reflects your financial capabilities and get it done.  Last  minute shopping tends to lead to over budget expenditures, contributing to feelings of depression, irritability and being overwhelmed.  Gain control by staying in your budget.  Realize the joy of spending time with others is a gift itself, so maybe ditch the gifts and plan an outting with great food and company.  I might even suggest a full moon evening hike with friends / family with a thermos of tea or hot totties. Or a new moon walk with your headlamp.


5. Support your adrenals now – adrenals are the principle gland responsible for allowing you to respond to stress (caution – this is a very simplistic iStock_000006204668_Smallview of stress management however for blog brevity sake we’ll keep it this way).  Lifestyle management along with thorough assessment of your nutritional portfolio and individual stress response style will help your naturopath develop an individualized treatment plan for stress management.  Such treatments typically include lifestyle modifications along with adrenal support through vitamin and herbal support.  Some of the all-star herbs, my particular favourite,  indicated to support and balance the adrenals glands are: ashwaganda & glycyrrihiza.  Some of my favourite lifestyle recommendations for immediate stress response help are: sleep (especially hours before midnight) & uni-tasking.


Withania somnifera:  aka Ashwaganda.  A herb used for conditions of debility, fatigue, nervous exhaustion, chronic inflammation.  An animal model study found benifits of ahswaganda in reducing brain markers of anxiety equal to that of lorazepam (pharmaceutical for anxiety) while also conferring antidepressant effects as well (4,5). Extensive historical and continued use in Ayurvedic medicine.


Glycyrhhiza Glabara: aka Licorice.  Long history of use especially in Traditional Chinese & Ayurvedic medicine. As it relates to stress, it helps to support the adrenal gland when deficient as well as increase quality sleep (6) which is a huge component of stress management.  Caution should be used with this herb, especially in those with blood pressure concerns, cardiac issues, liver issues, pregnancy & kidney issues.  Consult your naturopath to see if this is or isn’t the right herb for you.


Sleep before midnight:  the body releases its own anti-aging hormone of sorts – growth hormone when there is deep consistent sleep, especially in those hours before midnight. Research suggests that sleep deprivation causes stress hormones to heighten during the day and increase in the evening (7).  Essentially because good rest hormones responsible for fixing, repairing and restoring come out.  They however can’t do their job, if there is disordered sleeping (ie broken sleep, light sleeping, insufficient duration of sleep. )


Uni-tasking – in the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, author Baumeister & Tierney use extensive research to lay claim to the damage ensured by multitasking.  They suggest the brain is not efficient at multitasking and that it depletes glucose in the brain, leads to decision fatigue & possibly compulsive acts. Do your brain a favour and do one thing at at a time.


There, hope this helps and you break into the year with reserve, smiles and a pep in your step.



Sarah KentDr. Sarah Kent  blends traditional knowledge with current scientific understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.  With these skills she’s helped patients improve their sport performance, rehabilitate & prevent injury.
    •  Psychology Today http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-therapist-is-in/200911/10-tips-beat-the-holiday-blues. copyright 2013
    • Mobily K. E., et. al.  Walking and depression in a cohort study of older adults: the Iowa +65 health study. Journal of Aging and Physical. 1996, 4, 199-135
    • Lunn et al. Physical activity dose – repsone effect outcome of depression and anxiety. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.  March 2001. 
    • Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine. 2000 Dec;7(6):463-9.
    • L. Mohan, U. S. C. Rao, […], and V. Nair. Evaluation of the Anxiolytic Activity of NR-ANX-C (a Polyherbal Formulation) in Ethanol Withdrawal-Induced Anxiety Behavior in Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 327160
    • Godfrey, A., Saunders, P., et al. Principles & Practice of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine. 2010. CCNM  Press, Toronto. Pages: 434-426 & 435-436
    • Turner, N. The Hormone Diet. 2010. USA: Random House. 
    • Baumiester, R., Tierney, J.,  Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. 2011.  Penguin; USA.

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