Keeping Holiday Stress in Check

It’s that time of year when, no matter what we do, we often suffer some aspect of stress. For some, winter weather may tax the spirit and drain our energy. For others, it may be the stress of preparing for, cooking for, and socializing at holiday gatherings. Yet others may be encountering the holidays while struggling with family illness or feuds which stress and burden the heart. One holiday on top of another, there hardly is time (or daylight) to do all that we need to do, and then darkness hits and it feels like it is time for bed. How can we make it through the next month of celebration and another couple months of darkness when the demands on our lives feel so challenging already?

Nutritional Support for Well-Being

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It is important to try to get regular exposure to daylight and exercise as well as adequate rest during the winter months. Just as many animals hibernate, the human internal clock is dialed into sleep more when there is more darkness.1 This doesn’t change the fact that many of us still have to fit the same amount of things into our day, but it may ease the worry we feel about being more tired in the darker months! Listening to the body’s clock helps to restore our energy for the times we need it. Supplemental support with a quality multivitamin or B complex vitamins can help the body to get through the winter slump. Many of the B vitamins as well as vitamin D and C support a balanced mood, which is challenged by the winter for many.2,3,4 Vitamin C and B complex vitamins support adrenal function and neurotransmitter metabolism,5,6 while vitamin D and vitamin Csupport healthy immune system function.7,8,9

Support from Adaptogens

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Adaptogens are substances, primarily herbs, which help the body adapt and respond to stress. Many of these herbs are roots, such as the well-known ginseng and licorice. Other adaptogens include rhodiola, maca, ashwagandha, andschisandra berry. Adaptogenic herbs have a history of use in many cultures for thousands of years. Adaptogens have an effect on the body’s hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and also can impact mood, memory, concentration, sleep, and immune system function.10,11 Many of these herbs also have antioxidant effects.12 Adaptogens, particularly in combination, can have a tonic effect – supporting increased exertion when needed, and helping the body to turn off when the work is done.13 There also are adaptogenic herbs such asshatavari, an Ayurvedic herb, and yohimbe with more specific “female” or “male” effects, supporting normal hormonal balance and reproductive function.14,15,16 Many individuals find increased motivation and energy throughout the day with the use of adaptogenic herbs.

Keeping Things Calm!

Keeping holiday stress in check JEN CD html 6e1d8994Finally, in addition to supporting the energy needed to make it through the holidays (and winter!), many are looking for healthy approaches to help them wind down in the evening and throughout the day. A combination of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) with L-theanineis an excellent choice, as the non-sedating yet relaxing effects can provide benefit throughout the day in times of stress or anxiety. Both GABA and L-theanine support increased alpha wave activity in the brain,17,18 and have been shown to reduce the physiological and emotional response to stress.19,20,21 L-theanine also has been observed to increase expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),22 a protein that increases neural plasticity and promotes neurogenesis,23 possibly helping you to remember the long-winded story from your beloved great aunt or uncle told after a long, belly-filling dinner.

To learn more, read on at:


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3 Frandsen TB, Pareek M, Hansen JP et al. Vitamin D supplementation for treatment of seasonal affective symptoms in healthcare professionals: a double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial

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15 Riley AJ. Yohimbine in the treatment of erectile disorder. Br J Clin Pract. 1994 May-Jun;48(3):133-6. View Abstract

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17 Yoto A, Murao S, Motoki M, et al. Oral intake of γ-aminobutyric acid affects mood and activities of central nervous system during stressed condition induced by mental tasks. Amino Acids. 2012;43(3):1331–1337. View Abstract

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19 Abdou AM, Higashiguchi S, Horie K, et al. Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. Biofactors. 2006;26(3):201–208. View Abstract

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21 Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, et al. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007;74(1):39–45. View Abstract

22 Wakabayashi C, Numakawa T, Ninomiya M, et al. Behavioral and molecular evidence for psychotropic effects in L-Theanine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012;219(4):1099–1109. View Abstract

23 Binder DK, Scharfman HE. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Growth Factors. 2004;22(3):123–131. View Abstract