It’s THAT time of year and you’re probably bombarded – the never-ending stream of emails, gift buying, family coming to visit, job stress, holiday parties – the list goes on and on. I know it’s like that for me during this time of year and over time I’ve learned a number of techniques to handle the overwhelm.

Of course I’m going to add in a little science to this whole thing because it wouldn’t be complete without the nerd factor. I want to focus on our itty bitty adrenal glands in this post. Our adrenals sit right on top of our kidneys and are the part of our bodies that feel the most stress during this time of year. The reason for this is that they are the first line of defense against any kind of stress we experience – emotional, physical and mental. When you’re working late hours, rushing around to buy gifts and going to every holiday party you can stuff into your schedule, your adrenals are pumping out cortisol to give you enough energy to keep going.

You’re probably thinking “isn’t that a good thing?”

Yes, sort of. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and it’s released by the body during acute times of stress – which is practically all the time these days! Cortisol is great in small bursts because it gets you through the crazy times. The problem is that over time, chronic low-grade stress can lead to adrenal dysfunction and really high levels of cortisol in the body. It’s like your morning alarm going off all day in your body. You don’t want this. It is well documented that persistent high levels of cortisol cause all kinds of crappy things:

  • A bad memory – in fact, high cortisol levels cause your hippocampus to spaz out. Your hippocampus is where memory begins which means you need it to be doing its job, otherwise you won’t remember anything! Sound familiar? 🙂
  • Poor immune function – this means more colds and flu. Makes sense that this time of year people are more prone to illness. Don’t believe me? Check this study I found in the NY Times the other day. It links high cortisol levels to many physical issues we experience.
  • Mood issues – Yes, anxiety, depression, that “scattered, can’t get it together” feeling, constant overwhelm. I’ve so been there and I think every woman on the planet has been too.
  • Weight issues – that pesky muffin top will never go away if you have high cortisol levels. No matter if you exercise like a crazy person, high cortisol prevents your body from burning fat. Isn’t it funny when you’re relaxed or on vacation you lose weight and don’t even know how you did it? It’s your cortisol levels dipping down so your body can function optimally.

FYI: Cortisol is a hormone, which means that if it’s too high or too low, it is considered a hormonal imbalance. And it directly affects all of your sex hormones, but that is a topic for another discussion. 🙂

So with that said, I’d like to suggest three super easy self-care techniques to reduce cortisol levels and help you stay grounded and focused on the important people and events during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year too.

1. Minimize your light at night. Yes, I want you to go all 18th century on me and light candles after 9pm. Just kidding…but not really!  In all seriousness, too much light at night actually stimulates your adrenals to produce more cortisol to keep you awake and energized. This prevents you from being able to wind down properly and actually get a proper night of sleep. Here’s what to do. After 9pm turn off as many lights in your house as possible. Do light candles, they make everyone look pretty and they’re kinda sexy too. Give yourself a laptop curfew, this means no laptops in bed. That bright screen is keeping you up at night. You can take it a step further and rid your bedroom of anything that emits light – clock radios, TV’s and DVD players. Doing this will increase your melatonin production so you can get that good juicy sleep your body is craving.

2. Start saying no. This is probably the hardest thing for 99.9% of women but it’s oh so necessary. I’m a classic “yes” gal. I’ll tell everyone yes, get really stressed out because of my over-commitments, then flake out on almost all of my obligations. So wrong yet I have done it consistently for most of my life. My friends reading this are thinking yeah, that’s so Nicole! LOL The thing is, women are programmed to over-give, over-provide, over-promise and over-deliver, often at the expense of our poor little adrenals. So during this season, and all seasons for that matter, when someone asks you to do something that you feel in your heart you don’t want to do or you can’t do, I want you to practice saying “probably not, but I’ll think about it.” This takes some guts but if something isn’t going to serve you or build you up and saying no will not cause harm, then it’s a perfect opportunity to decline. See how you feel afterwards. Relief, less burdened, more in control of your life? Definitely! 🙂

3. Walk barefoot on the earth. I know this is a little woo-woo but hear me out on this one okay! This is also somewhat difficult for the ladies who live in cold countries but consider this a year-round practice. There is actually scientific evidence that walking barefoot on the earth, grass or beach can help reset your adrenal function and improve chronic fatigue. This is because the earth has a negative electrical potential and when we’re in contact with it, our bodies electrons become balanced by the earth’s electrons. Most of the time we’re all frazzled out by the harmful electromagnetic fields emitted by man-made products – computers, phones, hair dryers, home appliances etc. So your mission is to get your toesies onto the ground whenever the opportunity presents itself! If you’re interested, here is a great article that explains grounding in great detail.

Okay those are my three easy self-care practices for keeping it somewhat sane during the holiday season. Is there anything that you do to have less overwhelm and more whelm in your life during this time of year? Please share in the comments or on Facebook. I’m always dying to know what the superstars in my tribe are doing for self-care and self-love!

Ooooh and I almost forgot, I’ve got something extra for you too!

Here’s an bonus for you gals who are deep into the holiday crisis and might be looking for even more support. The school I went to, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, just shared their annual Holiday Survival Guide with me and I want to share it with you. It’s packed full of awesome tips on self-care, food, family and healthy gift ideas. Enjoy!!