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6 Hacks for Holiday Stress and Winter Blues

The holiday season isn’t all jingle bells and gingerbread. With shorter days, colder temps, travel, playing hostess, and dysfunctional family time, it’s a wonder any of us makes it to the new year in one piece. Luckily, there are many ways to manage holiday stress and beat the winter blues.

Go Toward the Light

Lots of people experience a downswing of mood that comes with winter. (It’s called SAD — seasonal affective disorder — for a reason!) Seventy to 80 percent of people diagnosed with SAD are women, with the common age of onset starting in the 30s. One of the best ways to counteract symptoms of SAD (fatigue, depression, mood swings) is light exposure. Outdoor light, even on overcast days, provides more light than a light box, so try to get outside. Several studies have shown that SAD symptoms subsided when sufferers spent just one hour outdoors daily. If you can’t get outside, a light box is a good option. Look for one designed specifically to treat SAD. Best results come with 10,000 LUX, and you want to ensure maximum UV is filtered out.

Supplement for Support

High stress creates a lower mood because stress depletes the body’s natural stores — and its ability to make more. Luckily, the supplement list for both mood and stress tend to be pretty similar.

5HTP: Synthesized from tryptophan (an essential amino acid that acts as a mood regulator). It encourages increased serotonin levels to promote a heightened sense of well-being and plays a role in healthy sleep/wake cycles.

B-Complex Plus: Essential for nervous system functioning. Getting the proper amount of B vitamins can improve mood. In particular, B6 is important for the production of serotonin; a deficiency can contribute to SAD. B12 has been shown to help those suffering from depression and anxiety. 

Magnesium: Rapidly decreases when we are under stress. Magnesium enables our nervous system to keep calm on a cellular level. It’s also essential for serotonin and melatonin production. Poor soil conditions mean that much of our food isn’t as high in magnesium as is ideal, so supplements are important.

Vitamin D: Helps regulate mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Nearly every tissue in the body, including brain tissue, has receptors for vitamin D.

Probiotics: Important for maintaining a strong immune system. Plus, since 80 to 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, you need your gut to be tip top.

St. John’s Shield: St. John’s wort has been shown to be effective against severe depression and SAD symptoms. St. John’s Shield is a flower essence blend used to treat winter blues. When you feeling sluggish, immobilized, or otherwise beset with SAD, apply it to the chest, throat, or solar plexus area.

holiday bread

Eat to Be Happy

The bounty of fall and the treats of the holidays can make it impossible to stay on track when it comes to your diet, but sweets and processed food do more than derail a waistline — they will blow your mood. Rather than focusing on the long list of foods to stay away from, shift your energy to the whole foods you should eat. Before you hit a party, fill up on high-quality, nutrient-dense foods that will keep you satiated and reduce temptation: Beans, nuts, whole grains, fatty fishes, and leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals to help keep you strong in more ways than one.

Get Plenty of Rest

The body resets between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., so try to get to sleep by 10 or 11 p.m. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night in order to reduce stress, balance hormones, prevent moodiness, and reduce fatigue.

Make Time to Meditate

Studies have shown that meditation reduces cortisol levels, improves sleep quality, boosts productivity, and improves mood. If the ability to meditate escapes you, try a meditation app.

Practice Gratitude

Winter blues and holiday stress can lead us down a dark path. Take time each day to focus on the good things in your life. As soon as you feel a mood creeping in, pause and think about someone or something you love: the smile of a grandchild, the sweetness of a pet, the chance for a few days off work, even something simple like the warmth of a cup of tea is worth expressing gratitude. And being grateful in your life is a proven way to thrive!

Elissa Goodman is an L.A.-based holistic nutritionist. Read her stories on healing your body and living a more mindful life. Find her online at

Photos: South Agency, Jennifer Pallian

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