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Managing Holiday Stress

Managing Holiday Stress

Managing Holiday Stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it?

Work is wrapping up. Our calendar is packed with various celebrations with our family friends and colleagues. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it?

This time of year can do a real number on your gut microbiome and mental health. “Christmas and New Year are a stressful time,” stated [1] psychologist Toni Langford. “People eat and drink more than usual, change their normal patterns of sleep and exercise, and spend more money than they can afford on gifts that sometimes are less than appreciated.”

If you’re living a hectic lifestyle and eating an unbalanced diet during the holidays it’s going to take a toll on your gut microbes and mental health, after all the two are connected in so many ways, if one is off-balance it will affect the other. [2]

Here are some tips to manage and minimise your holiday stress:

1. Limit Sugar, Starches and Alcohol

The holiday season is full with sugary treats, starchy foods and copious amounts of alcohol. These are potent triggers for mood swings, just Google “Holiday Depression” and see how many hits you get! Interestingly our diet has a lot to do with it. Food poisoning for instance can lead to IBS and depression, but on the plus side some microbes can cheer you up. These are called psychobiotics. As you might have predicted psychobiotic microbes enjoy veggies – not alcohol and sugar. [3]


We are consuming for greater quality quantities of sugar than we were ever designed to handle already, which only gets amplified during the holiday season.  Our bodies simply don’t need all those quick intense bursts of energy that sugar provides. [2]

Consuming excessive amounts of high-carb foods such as sugar, starches, and alcohol can lead to autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, heart disease, SIBO, depression and anxiety. Sugar is not a normal part of the human diet.


It often seems like the main point of a holiday party is to drink. With many of our social interactions being based around alcohol. Office work parties with large bar tabs. Drinks on the beach. Sunday Sessions.

Whilst alcohol may add fun to your evening, it extracts it from the next day – chemically speaking alcohol is a depressant. You don’t have to abstain, however remember to be weary and drink in moderation.

2. Manage Your Stress Levels

If you already struggle with stress, the holidays can pile more on. Relentless stress can contribute to leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, heart disease, anxiety, and a plethora of autoimmune conditions

Set time aside for yourself:

It’s important to make time for yourself to help manage holiday stress. Even a short break such as a 30 minute meditation or bath can  help reduce stress.

There are many ways to take time for yourself to manage holiday stress so find something you enjoy doing and set aside time for yourself to do it. No matter how busy you are, it’s possible to find time to devote to yourself. [2]

Get enough sleep:

Getting enough sleep helps make everything easier to accomplish. When you’re well rested you can think more clearly and plan your time well

Avoid heated topics that may turn into arguments:

A vicious cycle starts to spin up. Arguments at the table make your gut ache and make you anxious — making your gut ache even more. [3]

Remember to move your body:

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health, but it also has a surprising impact on your mood. That’s because there is an intriguing relationship between exercise, your gut microbes, and your brain.

V. Sanborn and J. Gunstad of Kent State University noted that exercise prevents hypertension, improves vascular function, promotes the growth of nerve cells, and modulates insulin levels. But it also helps your gut microbes fight inflammation, reducing stress. [4]

When we were kids we used to run around burning off the sugar consumed, but now as adults we opt to reach for the TV remote. Let’s tap into our inner child and get our bodies moving.

To Summarise,

Stress and rich food can alter our microbiota, and that microbiota can add to our stress. Everything in moderation.

If you find Christmas a distressing time try to avoid situations that may not be best for you, especially in regards to excessive alcohol or celebration. As they may not be in the best interest of your wellbeing, especially if you’re affected by depression.

Good advice to takeaway comes from Lifeline Research Foundation executive director Alan Woodward. He says “Find a way to define Christmas in a way you want it to be. Whether that’s a reflection of the year, merriment and celebration with friends, or simply having time by yourself to enjoy nature, peace and solitude, then make those arrangements.” [1]

From all of us at Advanced Functional Medicine, We would like to wish you a happy and stress free holiday season.

The above information is intended to be general, educational advice only, on topics which are of interest to us. It is not intended to represent specific or individual health or medical advice and is not specific to your situation. The below information is educative and is not intended to advertise any service.

Before making any decisions in relation to your health, you should always discuss your individual situation with your own health practitioners to ensure that any advice you have read is right for you.

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

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