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Getting through the Holidays

The holidays can be a magical time of traditions, connecting with loved ones, and enjoying meals together. They can also be a busy time where stress, overindulgence, change in routine, and high expectations can lead to poor sleep, digestive issues, and feeling overloaded. Fortunately, there are some great ways to help manage the overwhelming nature of the holidays and support your body so that you are left to enjoy some of the holiday magic.

First, Let’s Talk about Expectations

From gift-giving to hosting parties and family gatherings, the holidays can often come with a lot of expectations. These can sometimes lead to feeling overburdened as you try to meet them all. A great way to manage these expectations is to incorporate some mindful intention. Try starting the holiday season by taking some time to assess what is most important to you and ensure that your list of holiday to-dos aligns with your values and priorities.

Even after you have shortened your to-do list to include only the tasks that are truly important to you, there can still be a lot of stress around the holidays. The change in usual routine, emotions around the holidays, and navigating family relationships and dynamics can often cause stress for many people. It is important to ensure that you are well–taken care of so that you have the capacity and resilience to adapt. Some great ways to support your body, mind, and spirit during this time are ensuring you are getting adequate sleep, managing your body’s stress response, eating well, supporting digestion, and incorporating mindful presence.

Getting Enough Sleep

Whether it is racing thoughts keeping us up at night or simply not prioritizing rest, sleep is often one of the first things to go when we are under stress. Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep often leads to more stress, as it prevents us from functioning at our best throughout the day.

If it is simply a matter of not prioritizing sleep, prioritize it! Try setting a bedtime alarm, reminding yourself that whatever did not get completed today will probably be done more efficiently tomorrow when you are well-rested. Having a bedtime routine can also be helpful.

Research has shown that having a warm bath or shower before bed can help improve sleep quality and efficiency.[1] You can even add calming essential oils like lavender or some Epsom salts to your bath. If racing thoughts are keeping you up at night, try a relaxing chamomile tea and write those thoughts down to be addressed later. If that is not enough, consider a relaxing or sleep-inducing supplement like passionflower or kava.

Managing Stress

Stress can take its toll on the body, impacting our immune system and our ability to cope well with daily tasks. If you take the holidays as an opportunity to rest, recover, and reconnect with loved ones, they can be a great time to change your pace and perspective and take a welcome reprieve from the everyday stress you may be experiencing. Take some time before the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season starts to check in with yourself. Is there anything you can be doing to help support your body, mind, and spirit? There is nothing wrong with asking for help or setting boundaries to manage uncertainty. Perhaps incorporating a daily meditative or spiritual practice. You could even try incorporating some adaptogenic herbs like holy basil or ashwagandha to help your body cope with stress. Ensuring you are getting enough B vitamins is another helpful way to support your body in managing stress.[2]

Eating Well and Supporting Digestion

The holidays are a great time to indulge in good food and time with family. If we are mindful and take time to enjoy the food that we are sharing with friends and family, it can make it a little more difficult to overindulge.

Supporting digestion during this time can help you get the most from what you are eating and minimize concerns like bloating or acid reflux, especially if you find yourself having foods that you may not be used to eating. Drinking warm water with meals can be a great, simple way to support the digestive system by increasing circulation to the digestive tract. Bitter herbs like dandelion root, gentian, or even grapefruit seed extract before meals can also help increase digestive secretions to help you digest the meal you are about to enjoy.

Incorporating Mindful Presence

Taking some time out to meditate, connect with nature, and connect with yourself can help keep the holidays a magical time, helping you to manage stress and avoid getting caught up in the busyness of the season. Plan some quiet time each day. Perhaps play some music, light a candle, or diffuse your favourite essential oil to create a calm, serene place to recharge each day. Or try going for a little walk and observe the change of season and what is happening around you.

Final Words

The holidays truly can be a magical time to rest, recharge, and connect. Getting enough sleep, managing stress and expectations, eating well and supporting digestion, and remembering to stay mindful and present can help you make the most of the season and actually enjoy the holidays.

Dr. Felicia Assenza, HBSc, ND

A graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto, her goal in every patient visit is to share the knowledge and experiences that she gained on her own journey to help move others forward on their health journeys.


[1] Haghayegh, S., S. Khoshnevis, M.H. Smolensky, K.R. Diller, and R.J. Castriotta. “Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, Vol. 46 (2019): 124–135.

[2] Young, L.M., A. Pipingas, D.J. White, S. Gauci, and A. Scholey. “A systematic review and meta-analysis of B vitamin supplementation on depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress: Effects on healthy and ‘at-risk’ individuals.” Nutrients, Vol. 11, No. 9 (2019): 2232.