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holiday tips

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Scarcity and Lack: The Ringmasters of Holiday Stress


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Holidays can be lovely time full of joy, connection and reflection, but more often than not, that potential gets buried under feelings of stress, overwhelm and even dread. But why? Where do these feeling arise from as we navigate through the purportedly “happiest time of the year,” and is there anything we can do to avoid the compensatory behaviors we often find ourselves in (think: over-eating, over-drinking, under-exercising) in an attempt to cope?

 

Yes, and, let me explain.

 

In a culture of consumerism, the messages we’re given centralize around the theme, “You need this.” While there are incomprehensible ways to accomplish this, the basic premise of economics is: Sell people things they need in order to collect money you need in order to buy things you need… and the cycle continues. But before I go on further, let me just say that I don’t necessarily see anything fundamentally wrong with this picture. I have needs. You have needs. We have to find ways to meet those needs. Nothing wrong with that. So, for those of you out there rolling your eyes, thinking I’m shaming the world for consuming and trying to sway you into a counter-culture of communing and trading, I’m not. Let’s be clear.

 

I am, however, going to suggest to you that your needs, and what marketing companies tell you are you *needs, are two, very different things, and that believing your needs are never fully met is stressful to the body and mind, which is particularly present during the holiday season leads to unavoidable holiday gloom.

 

In other words, the constant highlight of the fact that we don’t have enough and will never be enough unless we buy, get or have ‘The Thing’ being sold to us, creates feelings of scarcity and lack. And furthermore, while actual scarcity has been shown in studies to be associated with decline in cognitive function as well as feelings of tenseness, irritability, fatigue and overwhelm, mere thoughts about scarcity lead to the same outcome. Meaning: Whether you don’t have enough, or whether you BELIEVE you don’t have enough, the results are much the same.

 

And to that point, no amount of breathing exercises, yoga, meditation or anti-inflammatory foods will be able to combat the stress you feel if your central belief is “I’m not enough. I don’t have enough.” Those two thoughts, which have an evolutionary basis in needs of safety, are not only stressful but destabilizing as well. Yet, we are inundated on a daily basis with messaging and marketing made to make us feel just that: Not enough.  

 

Turn on the TV and you will see endless advertisements directed at pointing out your flaws, what’s wrong with the world or how you can “fix” your life with this one simple tool. Cue the late night infomercials. But, it’s not always quite as boisterous as that either. A subtle message about those pesky grey hairs may seem totally normal to you based on the culture we’ve grown accustom to, but essentially the storyline is the same old song on repeat: You’re not enough the way you are – here, fix it with this.

 

No wonder we are all walking around tense, needy and irritable. I don’t know about you, but when I start to feel less-than or not-enough, I immediately want to dig into a box of cookies, a bottle of wine or, better yet, snap at the nearest person next to me just for existing.

 

In fact, when we feel fearful, stressed or uneasy about our lives, we tend to want to anesthetize that pain with creature comforts such as sugar, alcohol, sex, shopping or exercise. While in moderation, none of these things are inherently harmful, but excessive amounts of them can lead to negative consequences down the road, as most of us are aware. When we spend a whole month (or three considering they put out Christmas decorations at Halloween now) in the feeling of stress around upcoming holidays, we can easily begin to lean on these crutches more often than not, creating detrimental effects for our health.

 

To demonstrate this point even further, there has been some amazing work coming out of Princeton and Harvard professors Eldar Shafir and Sendhil Mullainathan pointing to the fact that scarcity, and the feelings of scarcity, actually lower cognitive abilities. Meaning, as humans, our decision making skills sort of fly out the window when dealing with the stress of scarcity. Now, they were mostly referring to financial scarcity in these studies, but have alluded to the fact in other articles that it doesn’t necessarily matter what the subject matter is. The reason being that when the human brain experiences stress, glucose levels plummet as energy demands increase in response to stress hormones being released into the bloodstream, and our attention focuses myopically on the stressor at hand, ultimately, making us dumber and hyper-reflexive in nature.

 

Now, this might seem like an intense description to lay out as a case against watching TV commercials, but nonetheless I think it’s worth mentioning since we are inundated with these messages more often than most of us care to recognize, making us victims of our own culture.

 

So, what to do? Because, let’s be honest, thinking about the ways your thoughts stress your body out is stressful in and of itself, and that’s not good for anyone.

 

Luckily, I believe the antidote to this conundrum is much simpler than we might assume. While I talk about it a lot, awareness – simple, sweet awareness – is once again key. Even reading this post, you will most likely think about things a little bit differently, and that, I believe is enough. Because next time you catch yourself feeling badly that you don’t have the latest style of workout pants or a bigger, fancier car or new furniture for your house or all the books you could ever want to read or the newest kitchen gadget from La Creuset, you might just stop and ask yourself, “Will this thing somehow make me better?” “Do I really need it?” “If I do want it, why? And lastly, “Even without this thing, can I be enough?”

 

Again, I don’t write this post to scare you out of wanting fun things, shopping for your loved ones or getting caught up in the Christmas spirit. We all celebrate differently, and if that feels good to you, and excites you and conjures feelings of joy – by all means, DO THE THINGS THAT BRING YOU JOY. But, if you find yourself feeling badly, feeling like you're lacking or ungrateful for all that you already do have, perhaps check in and tune in to see if the message is yours, or if you’ve been paying a bit too much attention to those outside voices whose message will always, and forever, be: You’re not enough.

 

Until next time,

Sy 

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How to Keep Your Energy During the Holidays


 

 

So, we’re officially in the throws of holiday season and you know what that means…

 

More:  Sweets, alcohol and stress

Less:    Exercise, sleep and healthy meals.

 

For a while, this is manageable. Our bodies are pretty durable and it may take a while for the negative consequences to show themselves. But, if you’re anything like most people, after the New Year festitivies have worn off and all the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over, you’re left feeling lethargic, stuffy, out of your routine and a bit sick of sugar but also unable to stop eating it. Sound familiar?

 

If so, keep reading. Today I’m sharing my top five tips for beating the holiday health blues as well as how to do a bone broth fast, which is my number one when it comes to avoiding that icky bloated, heavy feeling that comes with too many indulgences.

 

If the holidays were literally one day, we wouldn’t have a problem. The issues lies in all the fun leading up to and surrounding them. Wait- that sounds pretty grim. Let me rephrase. The issue is NOT in the fun itself but in the amount of opportunities it presents for us to “derail” from our nutrient-dense diets and stress-reducing practices. Again, letting go and balancing out with more relaxed time is not a bad thing, in fact it’s equally necessary for good health, but most of us get more than we bargained for when it comes to all the holiday parties, commitments and activities that pile up.

 

So, how do you “get back on track” after the actually event itself then? Over the years, I’m come up with a few strategies that help me recalibrate after the excitement which also allow me to head into the new year with lots of energy, excitement and good health.

 

My Top Tips:

 

1.     Do a mini bone broth fast. Fasting is one the best ways for us to give our digestive system a rest and to reset the hormones that play a role in blood sugar regulation and hunger signals. If you have a particularly hard time with bloating or with cutting out the sugar and alcohol, a bone broth fast will be your best friend. When we constantly bombard our digestive system with extra food and sweets, it can get “backed up” so to speak. Giving it a day of rest, while still supplying your body with easy-to-digest proteins and nutrients gives you all the benefits of a fast without the cravings and hunger pains usually associated with it. I personally find that fasting for the day and then finishing off with a light, healthy dinner works best, but if you feel fine fasting for a full 24 hours, go for it! I’ve put instructions for how to do the fast below.

 

2.     Force yourself to move. When you’ve been indulging in sweets, skipping workouts and staying up a little too late, getting in some exercise can seem like the last thing you’d rather do, but it’s also one of the most powerful ways to stimulate motivation and energy levels. I’m not saying you have to go smash a CrossFit workout – although if that feels good to you, by all means. Just work to get some type of movement into your day and I promise it will shift your mindset and energy for the better. You could start with a simple walk, some yoga, some stretching, a good run, lifting some weights, taking a dance or fitness class, taking your dogs out to play. Any and all of that will be good to get blood flow moving and your lymphatic system clearing out all the gunk. The key here is: Even if you don’t feel like it, DO IT. (unless you’re sick, then stay home J )

 

3.     Aim for extra veggies. I’m not saying count calories or get super strict about your food intake. That usually sends most of us into a rebound effect anyway where we rebel and eat ALL the nasty food we can get our hands on. All I’m suggesting is that you focus on increasing your vegetable intake to 2 or 3 servings a day and see what happens. I’m willing to bet that diet, exercise and mindset practices sort of fall into place as you commit to this one small goal daily. Vegetables are full of anti-oxidants and offer us the micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that support our immune system, energy levels and general metabolism, so eat up!

 

4.     Schedule in some self-care that excites you. The key is that you feel good about whatever you’re scheduling in. If going for a run makes you feel exhausted just thinking about it, that’s probably not the best option. However, if dry brushing and taking a bubble bath sounds delightful, then it could be just what you need to start your motivation train. Eating well, exercising and taking care of one’s needs are forms of self-love and self-respect. When we feel loved and taken care for, we are much more likely to continue the habits we know make us feel good. It’s cyclical in nature, so taking the time to schedule out some self-care can be the starter to that fire. Some of my favorites include: Getting a fresh haircut, doing my nails, taking a bath, going to do something I love like skiing or hiking, reading a great book all day long, splurging on a new supplement (yes, I’m dorky like that) or going shopping for a new outfit. All of these make me feel joyful and loved and motivated to keep the feeling alive by continuing healthy habits.

 

5.     Lastly, one of my favorite ways to keep motivation high is to set daily reminders on my phone to go off at various times throughout the day. I don’t recommend setting too many as science shows that constant notifications can actually be stressful, but setting 1 or 2 throughout your day is helpful. Whatever it is that you’re trying to work on that day, write yourself a little note and set it to remind you once in the morning and once at night to help you keep motivated and aware. For example, if I’m concerned with slowing down and being mindful during my day, I might write something like, “Take a deep breath, notice your surroundings, all is well.” And then, when this reminder goes off, I’ll take a moment to check in and do whatever it is my reminder is telling me to do. Creating new habits can be challenging when we don’t remember them until the day is over – this is why I love reminders so much, because let’s be honest, most of us are attached to our phones! We might as well make them useful in a positive way.

 

 

So, that’s it guys. Today is short and sweet, but hopefully you can take one or two of these tips and weave them into your routine. As always, let me know your thoughts in the commentsand feel free to share your own tips and tricks for staying well through the holiday season!

 

 

Bone Broth Fasting:

1.     Make or purchase your bone broth. Depending on your blood sugar regulation, you will want 3-6 meals worth. I personally go through about 3-4 mugs during my day, but when I first started these, I was closer to 6 because my blood sugar was a little wonky.

2.     Substitute your breakfast, lunch and any snacks during the day for a mug of bone broth. If you feel extra hungry or unable to fast completely, I recommend adding 1-2 eggs into your broth like an egg-drop soup.

3.     You may have another mug for dinner, or if you’re feeling ready to break your fast, shoot for a light, healthy dinner such as an easy protein like chicken or fish, some veggies and a healthy fat like butter, coconut oil or ghee.

4.     The next day, you may eat as usual.

 

I try to do one mini fast per week during stressful or crazy months as they keep my digestive fire stoked, my energy levels up and my immunity high! 

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