Egg Nutrition Center Blog

Managing Stress during the Holidays

Keeping the Fun in Holiday Fun 

CB

It’s mid-December, and the holidays are upon us! Exciting, right? Hopefully you and your clients are already enjoying the festivities of the season, but for many people, the next few weeks bring along added stress that can dampen spirits and make the season a little less bright. From making travel plans to buying gifts to making the house guest-ready, the holidays add to-dos on top of schedules that are busy enough during the other months of the year. While some stressors might be inevitable, it is possible to take steps to minimize any unpleasantness. This really should be “the most wonderful time of the year,” so help your clients employ strategies to make it that way.

We know stress isn’t fun by any means, but the physiological effects of stress can have dire consequences – more so than simply ruining a good time. Faced with stress, the body automatically enacts coping mechanisms that, once upon a time, helped humans survive potentially life-threatening situations. While this can be helpful in the short term, putting the body in a constant stressed state does cause harm over time. It can diminish immune system functioning, hampering a person’s ability to fend off illness. This is not ideal during the winter months when people tend to come down with colds or the flu more frequently (1,2). Moreover, prolonged psychological trauma has been associated with higher risk of cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality (3).

Psychological unrest and physical harm should not be part of your clients’ holiday season. Instead, help them stay happy and healthy by providing a few simple stress-reducing strategies that can make the holidays run more smoothly. Holidays are about family, love and giving, but they call for a little selfishness too!

  • Plan ahead.
    • Make lists. This doesn’t refer to the naughty-or-nice list or your gift list for Santa. Rather, make lists of things that need to get done this month, this week and this day, in terms of holiday prep.
    • Prioritize. At the end of the day, what is most important? Accomplish high priority items first, and then move onto other items if there’s time.
    • Be realistic. Don’t put so many things on your list for each day that you can’t physically accomplish what needs to get done. Remember to leave room for relaxation and holiday festivities too!
    • Take time for yourself.
      • Rest. With a solid night’s sleep, you’ll be able to think more clearly, check off those holiday to-dos more efficiently and have more time for holiday fun!
      • Exercise. It does wonders for the body and the mind. Whether it’s in the form of physical activity, meditation or simple reflection, stepping away from the distractions of the holiday season can relax you and help you remember the joy that the holidays are meant to bring.
      • Eat and drink mindfully.
        • Fuel yourself wisely. Both mental and physical wellness find their roots in nutrition. Counteract stress’s negative impact on health by choosing wholesome foods like eggs, which provide 13 essential vitamins and minerals to help you stay in tip top shape, physically and mentally. For example, the choline in eggs has been shown to aid in memory and neurotransmitter synthesis, as well as decrease risk for neurological disorders (4). This is great news because we all need a little sanity during the holidays! Check out the Egg Nutrition Center handout on the Nutrient Content of One Large Egg for a full listing of egg nutrients (5).
        • Prepare Grab-n-Go choices. Make healthy meals and snacks ahead of time, so that you’re ready when guests arrive or when you need something as you run out the door for that unexpected errand. Try this Italian Vegetable Custard for a make-ahead “heat-and-eat” meal, and be sure to have Basic Hard-Boiled Eggs on hand for a quick snack (6,7).

Basic-Hard-Cooked-Eggs

While a person can’t possibly anticipate every hiccup or stressor during the holiday season, you can help your clients manage stress levels by providing these simple preparation and coping strategies. By keeping in mind what is truly important as we round out 2013, you and your clients will be able to minimize stress and assure that the joys of the season are truly enjoyable!

References

  1. Hall JM et al. Chronic psychological stress suppresses contact hypersensitivity: Potential roles of dysregulated cell trafficking and decreased IFN-y production. Brain Behav Immun. 2013; Epub ahead of print.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24184400. Accessed Dec 9, 2013.
  2. Neuzil KM, Hohlbein C, and Zhu Yuwei. Illness among schoolchildren during influenza season. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002; 156(10):986-991. http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=204004#ref-poa20122-1. Accessed Dec 11, 2013.
  3. Hendrickson CM et al. Lifetime trauma exposure and prospective cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality: findings from the heart and soul study. Psychosom Med. 2013; 75(9):849-55.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24149074. Accessed Dec 9, 2013.
  4. Zeisel SH and Da Costa KA. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health. Nutrition Reviews. 2009; 67:615-623. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x/abstract;jsessionid=92C92C947F8962BD71C762AF787868E8.f03t01?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false. Accessed Dec 9, 2013.
  5. Nutrient content of one large egg. Egg Nutrition Center. http://eggnutritioncenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Nutrient-Content-of-1-Large-Egg.pdf. Accessed Dec 11, 2013.
  6. Italian vegetable custard. American Egg Board, 2013.http://www.incredibleegg.org/recipes/recipe/italian-vegetable-custard?from=/recipes/collection/brunch/baked. Accessed Dec 12, 2013.
  7. Basic hard-boiled eggs. American Egg Board, 2013.http://www.incredibleegg.org/recipes/recipe/basic-hard-boiled-eggs?from=/recipes/collection/simply-eggs/hard-boiled-eggs. Accessed Dec 12, 2013.

Author: Anna Shlachter MS, RDN, LDN