Supporting your nervous system through the festive season

 

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, cheer, reflection and celebration, however for many people it’s anything but. Full social calendars, financial pressures from the cost of buying gifts and taking time off work, family interactions and high expectations can really dampen the fun and even become a source of stress. In fact, Christmas is rated as one of the six most stressful life events, up there with divorce, moving house and changing jobs.1 This stress is disproportionately felt by women,1 who typically do the legwork when it comes to all the planning, decorating, food, gifts and merry-making.

If there was ever a time to support your nervous system, it’s now. As you celebrate the end year and the beginning of the new, here are some tips for looking after yourself amid the excitement and chaos:

 

  1. Take care of your own wellbeing – you might be focused on giving to everyone else, but it’s just as (if not more) important to prioritise yourself. Try to make opportunities for rest and relaxation. Use stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, put on relaxing music or go for a walk around the block. Whatever works for you. When you feel stress building, try a simple breathing technique like the 4-7-8 breath to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for relaxation). Inhale for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7 and exhale for a count of 8.
  2. Stay active – Exercise can help boost your mood and get you out of your head for a while. Aerobic exercise like running, cycling, swimming and skipping has particular benefits for the nervous system.
  3. Be mindful of your nutrient intake – there is nothing wrong with enjoying some indulgence over the festive period, but just be a little mindful of giving your body some added nourishment. Try including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, good sources of protein such as eggs, chicken, turkey and tofu and drink plenty of water. Before you head out to celebrate and feast, consider making a healthy smoothie with banana, oats, milk of your choice, spinach leaves, berries and a tablespoon of hemp seeds. Taking a high quality multi-nutrient supplement such as Ethical Nutrients Super Multi Plus might be a good idea to reduce nutritional gaps in your festive season diet.
  4. Prioritise sleep – During such a busy and stressful time, it’s important to recharge your batteries. Afterall, when we’re tired, the stress of the festive period will feel even more challenging. It might also be a time where you need some extra support getting the sleep your body needs. Ethical Nutrients Mega Magnesium Night has been meticulously crafted with magnesium and passionflower to calm the mind and relax your muscles to prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
  5. Support your body’s ability to cope with stress – Magnesium is involved in supporting healthy nervous system function and low levels of magnesium have been linked to an impaired capacity for the body to handle stress.2 Stress can also deplete the body of magnesium3, making it an especially important nutrient over the holidays.
  6. Take steps to reduce financial woes – There is no doubt that the festive season can be expensive with social outings, gift giving and food often leading to overspending and financial stress. To reduce both time and financial pressure, consider asking everyone to bring a plate to lunches and gatherings. Instead of spending crazy amounts of money on things that your loved ones probably do not need, consider homemade or second-hand gifts or pass on a book that you loved.
  7. Reduce sensory overload - Flashing lights, shopping centres and crowds can overload the nervous system, especially if you’re already feeling stressed. Try doing your food and shopping online to avoid supermarkets and shopping centres and take a social media break.
  8. Lessen family tensions – Whilst the festive period can be a great opportunity to bond with family, it can also accentuate complicated family dynamics or family relationships that are experiencing strain. Look after your mental wellbeing by avoiding tricky conversations about polarising subjects (if this is a trigger for you), go for a walk around the block if you need some space and organise something fun for everyone to do outdoors like play backyard cricket, Finksa, bocce or soccer where family members are less likely to get into arguments.

 

References

  1. Relationships Australia, December 2016: Christmas Stress, viewed 11 November 2022, <https://relationships.org.au/document/december-2016-christmas-stress/>
  2. Cuciureanu MD, Vink R 2011, Magnesium and stress, Magnesium in the Central Nervous System, e book, viewed 11 November 2022, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507250>
  3. Pickering G et al 2020, ‘Magnesium status and stress: the vicious circle concept revisited’, Nutrients, vol 28, no 12, p3672
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