Tis’ the season to be … merry and jolly? No pressure there! The holidays are in full swing and many people around this special time of year start to experience stress. Whether you’ve overcommitted to holiday parties, financial strain to buy obligatory gifts, social anxiety, shopping, baking, relationship strains (like your mother-in-law who is hard to soothe)… all of this can make you feel sad, overwhelmed, anxious, or disappointed in yourself.
I don’t have one magic pill but I have some good ideas that might help you. First of all, I want you to stop feeling isolated and alone. Most people experience some degree of stress during the holidays. It’s normal unless you opt out of participating, and then you have a different set of stressors. Whatever your situation is, I’ve got some natural options to help you enjoy the holiday season. Soon I’m going to give you information on magnesium, theanine, B complex, passionflower and others.
The natural remedies below are all available over-the-counter, and they have some clinical trials showing they are effective. That said, I don’t know if they are right for you, so ask your doctor if you can take any or all of these with your medical history, and list of medications.
Magnesium is a natural chill pill and it’s needed to drive hundreds of biochemical reactions in the brain, bones and muscles. Many of you are chronically deficient in magnesium and as far as I’m concerned, this is the most common ‘mugged’ mineral in your body. The mugging happens from medication you take which cause a nutrient depletion. See Drug Muggers for a complete list and for our purposes right here, I’ll tell you that acid blockers, laxatives, diuretics and blood pressure pills top the list for stealing magnesium from the body. Low magnesium and you’re easily stressed. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to support a healthy mood and relaxation. There are many forms of magnesium, most of which cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea. I prefer the magnesium “glycinate” or “malate” form myself, which doesn’t seem to cause quite as much intestinal upset. Dosages vary, but typically a dose around 125mg taken twice daily could help. Some of you could tolerate more, like up to 600 mg, especially if you have migraines, but just make sure your doctor doesn’t mind that kind of dosage. Magnesium can reduce blood pressure so be careful. Take it with food, and if you want better sleep you can stack the dose at night. For example, 125mg in the morning, and 250 at bedtime.
Here’s another idea with magnesium. Get naked with it! If you can ‘get away’ from your holiday shenanigans for 15 to 30 minutes, slip into a nice, hot bath with Epsom salts. Epsom is a form of magnesium (magnesium sulfate) and the magnesium goes right through your skin and into your blood stream. I dump about 3 pounds in my big bathtub because one cup simply doesn’t do it. Lock the door, turn on “Silent Night” and let your troubles float away! In addition to magnesium, theanine could help too.
This a natural amino acid and is found in many foods you already eat or drink. We usually drop the “L” and just call it “theanine.” You probably know this but theanine is what gives green tea its characteristic slightly bitter taste. Study after study has documented the relaxation support theanine offers. It supports nerve health and brain function. Basically, it makes you think with a little more clarity without jolting you the way coffee might.
Theanine can relax you without causing drowsiness. Look for supplements that contain 100-200mg of theanine per capsule. Ask your practitioner if taking one or two capsules of theanine is okay for you. Keep in mind you can drink it in the form of green tea. On average, 3 to 4 cups of green tea contains 60 to 160 milligrams of theanine. My only concern with drinking a ton of green tea is the caffeine you will get. Green tea has a little caffeine and if you’re sensitive, it might cause restlessness and irritability. I don’t normally recommend green tea in the evening because it could cause insomnia because the caffeine effect will override theanine’s relaxing effect. Try it and see how you respond.
This one sounds like it could help perk things up in the bedroom, but you’d be wrong. It’s actually a very calming herb and can put you to sleep. Studies show it supports anxiety and insomnia. According to researchers, passionflower increases levels of a chemical found in the brain called, GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). This neurotransmitter is what goes up while you sleep. It’s the same chemical that benzodiazepine drugs like Valium and Xanax seek to raise in a much stronger way than passionflower. GABA is inhibitory, meaning it slows things down and inhibits processes in your body that would otherwise keep you awake and excited.
GABA, when naturally produced, makes a person feel calmer and more relaxed. Passionflower helps you produce more GABA naturally, and safely, with absolutely no risk of addiction. One study discovered people with anxiety symptoms who took passionflower significantly reduced their anxiety symptoms compared to the placebo group. You can find Passionflower supplements, or a gentle tea everywhere and it is naturally caffeine free! It could make a great stocking stuffer!
Are you taking a high-quality B Complex? Please make sure because low quality ones contain synthetic or inactive forms of B vitamins. What good is that? If you take synthetic wanna-be vitamins, they just occupy your receptor sites and prevent your cells from latching on to the real B vitamin. A classic example of this is folic acid. It’s not what your body wants. It’s synthetic. But natural folate is biologically active and more effective, that is the type of folic acid that you should be taking.
So many times we are deficient in essential B vitamins and that can be the cause of moodiness, anxiety, panic attacks or just plain feeling depressed.
Generally speaking, B vitamins play a critical role in manufacturing brain chemicals that affect mood and other critical brain functions. Studies have shown low levels of B vitamins may be linked to depression. There’s a drug called Deplen that is nothing more than high dose methylfolate. I’m pointing out that even drug companies are aware of the power of B vitamins, they’ve gone and made a high-dose drug out of it!
We lose B vitamins, they are mugged out of our body. If you are taking any medications such as, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, birth control, diabetes medications, cholesterol-lowing medications (statins) or proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole), acid blockers, and many others, you are deficient in B vitamins. (Refer to Drug Muggers for specific lists of medicines that steal B vitamins). If you aren’t taking a GOOD B Complex supplement, consider chaining brands and see how you feel after a few weeks. You may also increase your B vitamin intake through diet by eating fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs and almond milk.
When you’ve got your nutrients and supplements in order, the next thing you should do is DISCONNECT! As I think about it, disconnecting should be first on my list!
Do your best to avoid getting wrapped up in other people’s holiday pressures. You have your own to deal with. Maybe it’s okay to say “no” to that “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party. Perhaps it’s easier to not engage your brother or step-father on something minor like the tinsel. Keep complimenting your mother-in-law for her hair and shoes, lol. I don’t know, just do your best to avoid confrontation. You can do this! Take care of yourself. Focus on the spirit of the holidays and the beautiful time of year. Focus on gratitude for everything and everyone in your life. Appreciate people for their attributes and don’t sweat the passive aggressive comments they make. It’s a reflection of them, not you. Remember the holidays for what they are, a time to celebrate and to express love. This will be easier for you than focusing on what the holidays ‘should’ be, and what so-and-so should have said to you but didn’t. Again, Gratitude. Let people’s character speak for itself, and if their comments stress you out, trust me, everyone notices this and it’s a reflection of them, not you. You’ll be happier in the long run by showing compassion and quiet grace. Happy Holidays!
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.