Christmas is less than a week away and I’m seriously stressed out. Yet what’s surprising is that I’m not one of those mom who aim for the “perfect Christmas.” I don’t bake batches of cookies, search the mall for the perfect gifts, or set up a family photo shoot so we can have the most memorable, Instagram-worthy Christmas cards. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. This year:
- My husband purchased the Christmas cards and most of the kids’ gifts.
- I did most of my shopping on Amazon.
- I already baked and gave the teachers and bus drivers yummy macaroons (Thanks Jenn Segal at Once Upon a Chef for the easy, delicious recipe!).
- Most of the gift wrapping is already done. I refuse to stay up late on Christmas eve!
Yet as a mom, our jobs are never done. I still have to finish up multiple work deadlines, shop for stocking stuffers, bake two cakes and decide on the Christmas Eve menu and clean my house before the guests arrive. I’m trying not to lose sight of what Christmas is really about—Jesus!—but all of these things still cause me loads of stress.
If you’re feeling the stress of the holidays despite everything you may have done to make things a bit easier, you’re not alone. In fact, a survey by the American Psychological Association, 44 percent of women said their stress levels increase during the holidays versus 31 percent of men. Financial stress is perhaps one of the most significant factors. According to a November 2017 survey by Affirm, a company that offers financing, 61 percent of people say holiday shopping causes marital and family strife.
Although this time of year can make it challenging to prepare healthy meals, grabbing fast food, take-out and snacking on sugary snacks will leave you feeling depleted, anxious and even more stressed out. Instead, focus on whole foods including plenty of vegetables and these 8 holiday stress-busting foods.
Not only are pistachios an excellent source of protein that will balance your blood sugar and prevent you from overindulging in sugary treats, but eating them may help you better cope with stress. In fact, a 2014 study out of Penn State found eating pistachios may reduce the body’s response to everyday stress in people who have type-2 diabetes.
The sun sets early this time of year and with the winter solstice—the shortest day of the year—on December 21, your vitamin D levels may be low especially if you’re indoors most of the day. It’s important to get adequate levels of vitamin D since studies show vitamin D deficiency is linked to anxiety. With 21 percent of the daily value for vitamin D, eggs are a great source of vitamin D and make for a quick and easy meal any time of the day.
Instead of reaching for a cookie or a piece of chocolate for a quick energy fix and to satisfy your sweet tooth, opt for an orange instead. Not only are oranges delicious but since they’re high in vitamin C they may also help to combat stress. In fact, according to a 2015 study in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, high school students who were given a vitamin C supplement experienced less anxiety and a reduction in heart rate.
Refined carbohydrates like those in holiday cakes, cookies and breads can spike blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. To keep your blood sugar stable and your stress at bay, quinoa is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids and can be made in large batches for all meals including breakfast.
5. Black tea
There’s nothing better than relaxing with a hot cup of tea after a long stressful day and black tea in particular, may have a positive effect on stress. In fact, a January 2007 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found people who drank black tea for 6 weeks had lower levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—than the placebo group.
6. Kidney beans
Nearly half of Americans do not get the recommended amount of magnesium—an essential mineral—in their diets according to a March 2012 study in the journal Nutrition Reviews. Yet magnesium is well-known for its calming properties and getting adequate amounts of it has been shown to curb stress, a May 2017 review in the journal Nutrients found. Kidney beans are an excellent source of magnesium: a 1/2 cup has 85 milligrams. Other foods high in magnesium include avocado, brown rice, cashews, edamame and oatmeal.
Experts say approximately 90 percent of serotonin is actually made in the gut so by giving your gut health a boost, you can also help your brain. Eating probiotic-rich foods like kefir can help boost the healthy bacteria in the gut and in turn keep stress at bay. In fact, a May 2013 study out of UCLA found women who ate yogurt with probiotics had less activity in the area of the brain associated with emotion.
Not only are lentils a good source of protein and fiber to keep blood sugar levels stable and promote satiety, but they also contain 90 percent of the daily value for folate, a B vitamin which helps make serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all neurotransmitters that regulate mood. Other folate-rich foods include chickpeas, spinach, asparagus and broccoli.