They say this is the most wonderful time of the year, but for those of us who struggle with seasonal mood fluctuations, it often isn’t. I always try to make an effort to enter this season on the offense, instead of playing defense.
Here are five things that could be triggering anxiety and mood instability over the holiday season. The beauty of these things is that each one of them impact the other, because so many of these important processes are connected.
Poor sleep – Sleep deprivation leads to heightened activity in the amygdala (your fear brain) and decreases the function of the prefrontal cortex. With lack of restful sleep we become reactionary and it makes it difficult to make good decisions. Listen to your circadian rhythm this season, and choose to go to bed an hour earlier. That can make all the difference in the world for your brain. Cut the electronics an hour before bed or at least wear blue light blocking glasses, because blue light blocks melatonin, which we need for restful sleep.
Back by popular demand, in this episode Dr. Duana Welch answers listeners top questions about healthy relationships and marriage!
Dr. Duana Welch is the original “Love Factually” author and coach known for using social science to solve real-life relationship issues. She was a professor at universities in Florida, California, and Texas across 20 years, and has contributed to NPR, PBS, Psychology Today, and numerous other outlets, podcasts and videos. Her first book, “Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do” (2015), is now out globally in five languages.
Download and listen here, or find wherever you get podcasts.
Confession: I took a page out of the media handbook and hit you with a headline to get your attention. Weight gain is not as simple as “thinking it into existence.”
But I CAN tell you this: what you think about your food changes your ability to absorb and utilize nutrients. Have you heard of the cephalic phase of digestion?
This phase is crucial to how our food is utilized. How and what you THINK about your food impacts the way your body absorbs and utilizes nutrients. In fact, researchers have shown that 30-40% of our digestive response is due to the cephalic phase, which is our awareness of what we are consuming.
This is what your brain needs to know:
Does it smell good?
Is it colorful?
Does it look appealing?
Are you grateful for it?
Does it appear to be a threat to your survival?
Will you feel nourished and safe with this meal?
The crazy thing is, you’re not even thinking these things on a conscious level. But your body picks up on it. In fact, there is an interesting component to this phase, called the “cephalic phase insulin response.” Simply thinking about carbs, or even fantasizing about a piece of cake or candy you are restricting, can cause your body to produce excess insulin. This is just another reason I like to focus on the principle of ADDITION over RESTRICTION… and another reason I hate dieting. Stress is stress to your body, whether it’s a perceived stressor or a real stressor.
So, this holiday season, be intentional about pleasure. Get excited to sit down and eat a nourishing meal with those you care about. I always say, “a body in stress will not digest,” and this reminder is needed even more so during the holidays.
When you sit to eat, slow down, breathe in between bites, and chew your food. Remember – the only part of digestion you can control is the amount of times you chew to assist in the breakdown. Be sure to allow your senses to take over; that’s when the magic happens. Food heals. It brings peace.
Food is crucial for survival. We must create a relationship with food that makes us feel safe.
If not, we make what is intended to be a restful and healing experience a stressful and inflammatory experience.
Your body will let you know which is which.
If you need help with any of the above, reach out! Optimizing digestion is a big part of what I like to work on with my one-on-one clients. We also dive into this a bit in my Feast 2 Fast program, which re-launches early in January. It looks like another weight loss program, but I assure you, it’s all about incorporating real food into our real lives – and allowing room for the fun food we get pleasure from.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with good food, good people, and lots of good JOY!
Trish Wilkinson is a mom, parent coach, brain stages expert, and co-author of the best-selling Brain Stages book. She came back to the show for a second time to expand our conversation on ADHD and discuss what to do, as it seems more and more children are being diagnosed with ADHD.
Download this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.
There are less than 50 days left in the year. This inspires a lot of go-getters, influencers, self-help authors, and leadership coaches to call for some kind of goal-setting push to finish the year strong.
But I want to consider something else.
Instead of doing a hard push, forcing yourself to live up to some imaginary expectation for yourself only YOU are freaking out about, let’s acknowledge what you’ve been through and the coping mechanisms you’ve developed in effort to support you.
No judgment. No shaming.
I’ll go first.
When I’m stressed, I like to numb out with a bag of flavored chips that will make me feel like crap afterwards.
Do I want to do it? No. Is it “healthy” from a physical, mental, or spiritual standpoint? Probably not. But it’s familiar to me. It’s comfort. This coping skill worked when I was younger. It brought me temporary relief and comfort when I was depressed and couldn’t find relief or a way out of the dark hole I had fallen into.
By beating myself up for continuing to fall victim to my coping behavior, I make it worse, and cause more stress… making me more likely to repeat the behavior, perpetuating the cycle of unpleasant feeling, coping, shame, unpleasant feeling, shame, and coping.
So the worst thing I can do, in order to cope with my stress, is to add on more rigidity, more standards to live by, forcing an already stressed out and emotionally dysregulated brain into more dysregulation.
It’s going to backfire. My brain wants to keep me alive, and when things get hard, my brain will find the familiar way out. Every time. It’s what brains do.
Most everyone will cope with burnout at some point in their lives. Those in a helping role may be more prone to burnout than others. Instead of dealing with burnout as it arises, there are practical tools and strategies to employ BEFORE burnout hits.
Dr. Michelle Pokorny is an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary whose doctoral work focused on burnout and soul-care among leaders. Her passion is to help men and women thrive, rather than survive, in their daily lives as well as work.
Download the episode here, or find wherever you get podcasts.
Every week, usually Thursday or Friday, my husband and I plan our meals for the following week. We choose three meals, without a specific day in mind when we’ll make them, which gives us room for leftovers or unexpected events. We are pretty flexible, loosely scheduled people – so this works for us.
While the meals vary because I can’t have the same thing every week for dinner, there are some items on our list that don’t change. Since I like to leave wiggle room for the unexpected, there are pantry and fridge stocking items that I always try to include – just in case.
What follows are the items I make sure to have present as much as possible. They’re in no particular order, but I may have saved the best for last. 🙂