Conscious Self-Care Can Ease Holiday Stress and Safeguard Your Health

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

Holidays can present their own challenges for health and heart. The “norm” as depicted on television of the happy, healthy family, and the generous, kind-natured neighbors is not always the case. Chronically ill patients know this only too well, especially if suffering from an illness that is poorly understood by the masses, such as mold related illness. And, while self-pity is not a good place to stay mentally, self-care is absolutely essential—the holidays may actually require more of it! I try to remind my patients that it is never a selfish thing to be one’s own personal health advocate and to put one’s physical and emotional needs and health at the top of the priority list.

In my previous articles, I have mentioned the importance of keeping the total body load as low as possible. Doing your best to ensure that you have clean air, clean water, and clean food are crucial to mitigating your toxic burden. This time of year, though, with holiday travel, crazy schedules, and an abundance of indulgent and sugary foods around us, controlling the quality of our air, water, and food may be harder to do.

Clean Air

As weather gets colder and humidity drops, indoor air problems can manifest. Heat goes on, we spend less time outdoors, and we pull our cold-weather clothing out of storage, possibly with mold spores attached. To mitigate all of the dry, recycled air and possible influx of mold, try to be extra diligent in surveilling your environment. Use mold plates to monitor spore levels inside your home, so that you can take proper steps to keep mold levels under control. I like using a technique called “Tap testing” described on the Micro Balance website. It enables you to test items in your home for mold. If washable items, like your clothing, show signs of elevated mold spores, then you can wash them with EC3 Laundry Additive, making sure everything is dried thoroughly before placing back in drawers or closets. If your environment is extremely dry and you opt to use a humidifier inside, please only use a steam mist humidifier, and clean it daily with a safe and nontoxic cleaner and treat it with EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate to prevent mold growth. Humidifiers are notorious for building up mold very quickly and then spewing the spores into your air. Additionally, if you find yourself travelling for the holidays, or staying in hotels or with relatives, make sure to test and treat your clothing and belongings for mold when you get home. You can also bring EC3 Air Purification Candles with you in your suitcase and burn them wherever you are to temporarily control mold levels and to make your exposure much less.

Clean Food

Clean food may present a particular challenge, especially if trying to decrease refined carbs and sugars. The treats abound and temptation is around every corner. That holiday toast with wine or alcohol may further fuel that yeast fire in the gut, creating more food cravings, more inflammation, and more fatigue and brain fog.   It is essential during this time that you plan ahead as much as possible. Try to have the mindset that your food choices will impact your health overall. If you know that you will indulge in a dessert, or a glass of wine, then prepare in advance and take an extra probiotic or two, and if on antifungals, an extra dose after you have had the treat. This does NOT give you free license to eat whatever and whenever, but does decrease the negative impact should you decide to have a treat. I also encourage my patients to keep a food diary and write down everything they eat or drink. The act of doing that helps to maintain mindfulness of what you are putting into your body, and what time of day it was. Then, if you find yourself not feeling well, or experiencing symptoms, you can look back at your food diary to see how what you ate might correlate with your reactions.

Other tips include trying to keep healthy food alternatives around, and leaning more towards salty treats, than the sweet ones. Salty choices seem to satisfy and not stimulate more hunger. For alternatives, there are many things you can make or foods you can buy that are tasty and far healthier than the offerings at a usual holiday gathering. Use of monk fruit extract can be extremely helpful for baking or sweetening drinks. It measures and cooks like sugar, but has no carbs, calories, or impact on the glycemic index. You can find it on Amazon (Lakanto is the brand I have used) and also in some grocery stores.

Clean Water

Stay hydrated! Use of clean, filtered water keeps mind and body more satisfied. It is amazing how often one may think “hunger” when it is actually thirst. One way to know if you are drinking enough is the color of your urine. It should be practically clear. Rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of clean, purified water daily. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, drink 65 ounces of water daily.

Mitigating and Managing Stress

Try to keep stress levels from getting the better of you. Restful sleep helps everything from healing the body to sustaining mood, and promoting good levels of blood sugar, insulin, hormones, and more. Basic sleep aides such as Magnesium Threonate, 200-400 mg per night, Phosphotidylserine, 100-200 mg, and Melatonin, 0.5-3 mg, are all helpful in doing this and may be used singly or in conjunction with each other. (Note: You can find all of these on the Wellevate portal through The Body Nexus website.)

If you have started an exercise program, continue it! Burning excessive adrenaline and keeping the muscles moving make a big difference in each day’s level of energy and focus. Exercise is the first line treatment for anxiety and depression, which we all want to keep at bay.

Quieting the mind is also part of the healing journey and especially during the holidays. For some people this is prayer, others prefer a mindful meditation. Meditation Apps are available and free, as are guided meditations on YouTube. The important thing is to make prayer or meditation part of your daily routine, perhaps even more than once a day. Writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal also helps. It does not ever have to be read again, but something about the activity of actually writing your thoughts down, whatever they may be, helps reduce that load of mental stress and emotions. Separately, keeping a gratitude journal by your bed, writing just 3-5 things daily for which you are grateful, helps us become more mindful of the good moments during the day. It is amazing how much this simple act of noticing the positives in life can lift spirits.

I realize that finding joy and gratitude while grappling with the challenges of chronic illness can be difficult. No matter how ill, or how difficult your circumstances may be due to dealing with mold and its resultant issues and challenges, my wish for each of you is that you find moments of peace and happiness, wherever and however they may present themselves.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you! I give thanks to be a part of your community.