theoretically, we've entered the season of light, love and goodwill. But if your blood pressure's rising and your feelings of being overwhelmed mounting, you're not alone. This season makes all kinds of demands on our bodies, psyches and pocketbooks. Take your average mall, for instance. We're talking crowds, fluorescent lights, canned air, scented Christmas candles and decorations oozing chemicals, screaming kids and ample amounts of foods laced with sugar and hydrogenated fats.
If any of this sounds familiar, consider adopting a multi-layered destressing plan. Start by wrestling down the money demon. Racking up debt seriously increases the blues. Make a gift list and budget, and stick to it.
Next, look at your time. Is there any set aside for you -- for a massage, for a walk in the park, for contemplation? And if you're feeling like it's hard to spend time with the people you want to be with, invite friends or family to share holiday obligations like shopping or cooking. You can turn the tough stuff into the gabby 21st-century equivalent of a work bee.
Note that parties will expose you to cigarette smoke and fumes from dry cleaning, perfume and hairspray. Keeping up your fruit and veggie intake and downing some extra antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc) will help you navigate the noxious air with minimum mood alteration.
Few things bring on irritability as fast as low blood sugar and a bloated digestive tract. To help keep your blood sugar and mood steady, don't substitute sweet treats for meals, and do take a multi-mineral supplement that includes chromium. Extra acidophilus throughout the holidays will help your gut keep up with the annual eating Olympics. And so will plant-based digestive enzymes. Down two capsules at the beginning of every rich meal, and two more at the start of every new course.
A glass of red wine before a meal will rev your digestive juices, and another glass during your meal will help, too. But more than two will suppress your gastric juices. Wait an hour before drinking again. If you're planning to imbibe to excess, B vitamins, a multi-mineral supplement, plenty of water and 1,000 milligrams of pantethine daily (500 before drinking, 500 after) will minimize the consequences.
EXPERTS"This is one of the best times of year to think about cleaning up your mental environment. Christmas should be about getting together with family and friends, but most people do the opposite -- hit the malls and max out their credit cards. If they're at the beginning of mental dysfunction, Christmas eggs them on. I try to stay focused on not losing control of my Christmas, then every so often do reality checks to see how I'm doing."
KALLE LASN, author of Culture Jam, editor of Adbusters magazine
"Magnesium, calcium and B vitamins help you cope with noise and frazzled nerves. Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine that directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, promoting a state of deep relaxation combined with alertness. L-theanine offsets the caffeine in green tea. Two to four cups a day would help control anxiety and stress. If you drink a lot, you'll be really zenned out."
ZOLTAN RONA, holistic MD
"The holidays are a good time to practise trusting yourself. If you have an intuition that you do or don't want to go somewhere, trust it. Know that there may be someone disappointed with any choice you make. Accept differences between people, don't force your obligations on them, and trust others' natural timing."
LARRY NUSBAUM, MD and psychotherapist
"You don't have to eat everything on your plate. Just eat what you think is good for you, and don't comment on the things you don't think are good for you. Double-dipping is very unkind, and unhealthy, too. Your saliva ends up in someone else's mouth.'
ADEODATA CZINK, etiquette teacher
"Don't eat sweets or fruit within an hour of your meal. These foods interfere with the breakdown of proteins and fats, possibly causing indigestion. Avoid mixing bean protein with dairy or meat protein. Don't drink black tea or coffee within an hour of your meal. Don't drink cold water just before a meal; it will shut down digestive juices.'
TARI LEE CORNISH, nutritional consultant