Extra stress around the holidays taxes the physiological system and exhausts the adrenal glands. Exhausted adrenal glands compromise your ability to sleep, think clearly, and can even spiral into various levels of depression.
If we use typical substances to restore energy, like caffeine or sugar, we add even more stress on our body and brain.
In essence, we are robbing Peter to pay Paul, and eventually both become bankrupt. In the short term, certain foods and drinks seem to work to lift our spirits, but the accounting will eventually arrive.
For most Americans, the winter season is full of emotion, fatigue, too much sitting, and unhealthy eating. And for many, especially for those in the colder parts of our country, the lack of sunlight and time outside contributes to the winter blues. But this does not have to be the case for you.
Please be quiet.
Nothing personal, but none of us were designed to cope with all the noise in modern society. Investing just one minute in complete silence three times a day will help balance the autonomic nervous system with the parasympathetic rest.
If this exercise sounds ridiculously simple, I dare you to try it—and I bet your first few attempts will be surprising. Most people are amazed at how quickly their mind wanders back into hyperdrive. But as you practice, the results will encourage you.
What can we do during those minutes of doing nothing?
Two things: Breathe deeply, and count your blessings. Thankfulness is probably the best preventative medicine when it comes to the winter blues.
For the other 1437 minutes in your day, turn off as much noise as you can, as often as you can. Silence recharges us. Noise and mental clutter drain us and make people more susceptible to negative thoughts and feelings. Stillness allows the brain to re-organize and become more engaged in the present moment.
This season can be a time of reflection and celebration. But too often, we follow cultural excesses, comparison, busyness, and “fear of missing out” to steal our joy.
Boost your brain.
When you exercise—hopping on a treadmill, going for a brisk walk, jogging along a path, or lifting weights—chemicals such as IGF-1 enter your bloodstream and brain, then stimulate the production of other chemicals, such as BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor)—a “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”
The more BDNF, the more your brain nerve cells fan out, forming the interconnected webs needed to communicate as designed—creating a larger capacity for you to store information.
Researchers and functional medicine practitioners have found a significant association between vitamin D levels and the patient’s perceived quality of life. Low vitamin D in winter can worsen depression or bring on what is known as “seasonal affective disorder.”
Did you know the primary source of vitamin D is sunlight? No other source comes close in effectiveness, and it’s free!
Shorter days and cooler temperatures keep most Americans inside and watching screens. (The light from your smartphone or TV does not produce vitamin D, by the way.) This could be part of the reason so many Americans are chronically deficient in this essential vitamin. In fact, most patients we evaluate are found to be lacking in proper levels of vitamin D.
Quick Energy Shake
Here’s a recipe for our “Quick Energy” shake.
- One scoop of vanilla protein powder
- Half cup of frozen berries
- Half cup of almond milk/cashew milk
- 1 scoop of greens vital nutrients powder
- 1 scoop of reds vital nutrients powder
- 1 scoop of Maca root
- 2 to 3 drops of flavored Stevia (use a different flavor each time to give taste buds a nice variety)
The ingredients in The “Quick Energy” Shake provide energy in the following ways.
Proteins are the building blocks of life, improving muscle function and providing energy for the metabolic pathways.
The greens and reds provide a complete vitamin and mineral profile that aids energy production at a cellular level. Maca root is an ancient herb that has been used for centuries to improve adrenal function. Stress hormones are produced by the adrenal gland. If we give the adrenals nutrition to improve their function they are less likely to run out of fuel.
Invigorate your largest organ.
Yes, I’m talking about our skin. Create a body scrub by mixing 1 teaspoon of unscented body soap and two drops of your favorite essential oil (eucalyptus, peppermint, grapefruit, or whatever you like). Use the soap in the shower with a loofah scrub brush.
Doing so opens skin pores, improves respiratory function, dilates respiratory bronchioles, and enhances breathing. When respiration is improved, your body enjoys more oxygen, which increases energy and vigor.
The scent of the oils also works on the olfactory centers of the brain and improves alertness.
Using a loofah exfoliates dry, dead skin, and leaves me feeling extra clean, and rejuvenated. (Yes, men, this is for you, too!)
Additionally, experimenting with water temperature during your shower can be invigorating, as temperature changes can improve blood flow.
While you’re in the shower—sing! And keep singing throughout the day. Music and singing uplift our entire being, and whether they admit it or not, lift the spirits of those around us.
Most people, especially busy people, don’t stop and pay attention to what energizes and drains them. They just keep hustling.
Do you feel somewhat “down” after a Netflix binge? What do you think you should do with that fact? Does a walk or jog seem like the worst idea in the world—until a few minutes into your excursion? How do you feel after exercise?
When we make unhealthy choices such as excessive use of caffeine and other stimulants to provide a quick energy hit, they ultimately leave us worse off. Doing this day after day digs the hole deeper and eventually, we cannot dig ourselves out.
Here’s a rather obvious statement, but one I need to remind myself of often:
Do more of what energizes me and less of what drains me.
Try these simple practices, and as you pay attention to what builds you up and enhances your joy of living, do more of that. New habits you form this winter will make your New Year much better.
Bonus: Healthy Holiday Recipe Book
Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes”, Almond Flour Pie Crust, Apple Pie Filling, Quinoa Stuffing, and more!