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5 tips for managing holiday stress with holistic nourishment

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

The twinkling starry lights are hung over downtown streets and folks are journeying from afar to reunite with loved ones are sure signs that the glorious holiday season is upon us!

As magical and fun as the events and energy of this time are, for some, obligations at the end of the year can also be overwhelming and stressful. Along with the fantastical joy of celebrating, there are also major disruptions to daily routines, seemingly constant coordinating of travel plans and meals, and spending time with family members who may heighten your stress response. Add all that up, and it could equal your body needing a little extra love to make the most of these times.

The good news is that the ways you choose to nourish yourself during these festive months can have a profoundly positive impact on your ability to manage the extra stress you may be experiencing. I’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to help you holistically support yourself through the excitement of the coming weeks.

1. Bring snacks.

This seems obvious, but the last thing anyone needs when being around family is hanger!

Whether you’re going to be traveling for extended periods of time or hunkering down for a prolonged stay at a relative’s home, having healthy snacks at the ready can be the difference between being in a good mood or feeling outright irritable.

Following a few simple guidelines can help you get the most out of your snacks. Quick bites composed of fat, fiber, and protein contain the key nutrients to stave off the hanger monster for a sustained period. To get even more out of your snacks, try to consume foods in their least processed form. Choices like organic nuts, seeds, trail mixes, bananas, apples, carrots, dips like hummus and Toby’s, and minimally processed bars are tasty morsels that all meet the guidelines for optimal snacks, and many of them can be found in the grocery section of WILLOWTREE Market, down the stairs from where my office space is located.

2. If you’re attending someone else’s gathering, inform your hosts of your dietary restrictions.

As a person with dietary restrictions, I know how awkward it can feel to place this burden on your hosts. It can even bring on feelings of guilt for some, but if certain foods make you sick, then your hosts, who likely care about your wellbeing, will probably be happy to accommodate your legitimate needs.

The temporary discomfort of communicating your eating style will be well worth the benefit of avoiding potentially offending your hosts by rejecting their cooking, bringing on excess inflammation, an urgent need for the restroom, or a more severe reaction while trying to make the most of your time together. One way to really soften the blow with your hosts is to follow it up with tip number 3.

3. Offer to help with cooking, recipe selection, and/or bringing a dish or two to share.

Perhaps your hosts aren’t familiar with how to prepare food to meet your needs. They’ll probably be delighted to have you offer recipe ideas and/or a set of helping hands in their kitchen to ease their burden.

A go-to that I use is to bring a big, hearty salad that contains fat, fiber, protein (just like the snacks!) and a simple dessert. That way I know I’ll have something easy to prepare yet nourishing to eat at mealtime, and I won’t have to miss out on indulging in the sweets of the season when it’s time to dig into pie.

4. Carve out moments to yourself.

It can be easy for self care to slide to the wayside during the flurry of getting together with your loved ones, but carving out just 5 minutes a day to check in can be enough to keep your spirits alive. A quick brain dump in a journal or a short walk outside will go a long way to sustain your wellbeing this holiday season.

My favorite way to support my basic needs during these times is to pause before each meal, close my eyes, take 10 intentional breaths, and cultivate all that I am grateful for in that moment. This simple exercise is quick to execute yet tremendously grounding, and it helps the body prepare for digesting a meal. Optimized digestion can have a big impact on mood and physical health, so taking the time to get centered and calm before you eat can have a big impact on how you feel overall too.

5. Bring your herbal allies along for support.

Botanical remedies for energy enhancement and anxiety wrangling can be wonderful to have on hand. Herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, skullcap, and damiana are lovely for turning down the volume on ruminating thoughts and feels of unease. Kava is a great one for calming your nerves and enhancing your social capacity, but keep in mind that it does not mix with alcohol at all. These plant friends can all serve as harmonious sleep aids too when used around bedtime and/or in slightly higher doses to help you get the rest you need between eventful days of celebration and travel.

Adaptogens will help keep your immunity and energy up while tackling these hectic times too. Ashwagandha, maca, schisandra, reishi mushroom, and holy basil are fabulous for supporting most everybody. Peppier herbs like rhodiola and licorice will give you a good kick in the pants if you’re really needing a boost, but remember to use these remedies mindfully for best results. If herbs aren’t your jam, no worries, there are many alternatives such as flower essences or key nutrients like magnesium, L-theanine, and GABA to stave off anxious moments and fatigue. If you're curious to learn more about using these supplements in a safe & targeted way, a consult with Knapp Nutrition can help guide you there.

The holidays can be stressful, but you don’t have to suffer through them! Tuning into how you’re feeling and doing what you can do nourish your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing by following these tips will make all the difference.

With love, may you all have a healthy, happy, and nourishing holiday, friends!


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