Calm Your Holiday Nerves

December 01, 2016

Need some stress relief this holiday season? Head to your supermarket for stress relieving foods

We are in the thick of it, the holidays are here, and when you're feeling frazzled and in a hurry, you can’t forget that nature has provided foods that are known to have calming effects. There are also certain combinations of foods that can leave you feeling blissful, as well as satisfied and nourished, even through the hectic holiday season.

For the most part, calming foods are easy to digest and contain nutrients that can relax the nervous system or boost our mood naturally. As a holiday treat, here are a few suggestions on how to naturally promote relaxation through food and drink, and infuse some calm into this frantic season.

Chamomile, a very popular relaxation aid, has been used since ancient times and is known to promote general relaxation and relieve stress. Chamomile tea has been used a mild sleep aid and can help with digestion. Its leaves can be found dried as tea and it has a very pleasant and calming aroma.

Omega-3s - try eating foods that are rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, salmon, sardines, flax seed, and omega-3 fortified eggs. Omega-3 is essential for optimal brain health. Omega-3s also have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help in pain relief.

Tryptophan: did you feel sleepy after dinner this Thanksgiving? Well, turkey is rich in the essential amino tryptophan; and while it can make you sleepy, tryptophan also aids in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which calms and helps regulate feelings. Production of serotonin can elevate your mood and ward off depression. Serotonin also helps promote adequate sleep. Combining tryptophan-containing foods with complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains or fruit, increases absorption and aids in the production of serotonin. In addition to turkey, foods that contain notable levels of tryptophan include shrimp, spinach, cottage cheese, chicken, tuna, soybeans, milk, salmon, and eggs. Vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower are great sources as well.

Water is essential for every function in the body, but during busy days it’s one of the easiest things to forget! Drinking at least 8 ounces of water with each meal can help supply adequate energy, relieve headaches and head congestion, and generally help you think straight during hectic holiday times. It also helps with proper digestion. Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day to remain hydrated, feeling calm, and healthy.

Zinc rich foods such as spinach, lamb, and grass-fed beef can also have calming effects, as they help to stabilize metabolic rate, balance blood sugar, and aid in the optimal function of the immune system. Zinc is a trace mineral, essential for growth and development of all cells in the body, and thus a deficiency can lead to a litany of problems. Other good sources of zinc include calf's liver, shrimp, oysters, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and crimini mushrooms.

If you're feeling especially anxious, try decreasing your caffeine intake, limit coffee and tea drinking to earlier in the day. Remember, some sodas and diet sodas also contain caffeine, sometimes in significant amounts. Caffeine speeds up the action of the nervous system and other major body systems. It can also increase the level of adrenaline in your blood, which triggers an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, production of stomach acids, and urinary output. If you can, try to avoid artificially sweetened and sugary beverages altogether - they won't hydrate you as well as water and can contribute to stress.

The holidays should be fun and enjoyable! Use the above list as a guide to keep you feeling relaxed and calm through the holiday season and as we transition into 2013!