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Holiday Stress? 4 Easy Ways To Beat It!

We’re approaching the holiday season, a time of year that can elicit great joy, gratitude, and warmth, or feelings of dread, worry, and stress, depending on your perception. Too many gifts to buy, parties to attend, rich food to eat, and family to keep happy can lead to headaches, insomnia, and even mild depression for some individuals. But by following the “everything in moderation” mantra for all aspects of the holidays—not just food indulgences—we can make it to New Year’s Eve without the added pounds, credit card debt, and family nightmares. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

* Keep a selective social calendar: If you’re invited to five Christmas parties a week, you don’t have to say yes to all of them. It’s okay to say “no thank you” to some events (really, no one will think of you as the bad guy), and attend only the ones that mean the most. Do too much, and you’ll risk burning yourself out fast, making every party from that point forward a drudge.

* Keep exercising: It’s a great stress-reliever, plus it will help prevent the unwelcome gift of holiday weight gain. Like the party regime, it’s okay to scale back a bit (even professional athletes have periods of “down time”) but make sure to keep locked in your schedule. Ways to sneak in short bouts of exercise include shoveling snow, parking your car at the far end of the parking lot when mall-shopping, and opting for stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.

* Keep a budget: Set a spending limit and stick to it. Pay with cash or check as much as possible, and simplify gift giving beyond your immediate family to help ease money woes. For example, if you have a circle of 10 friends to consider, try drawing names or having a low-key “secret Santa” party.

* Keep breathing: Take time each day to meditate or just take a few deep breaths and focus on the present (as in present moment, not presents you buy!). Think about all of the good things that come this time of year. Be grateful for your friends, family, pet, having a roof over your head, and a healthy body, mind, and spirit. Relax. Sleep well. New Year’s Eve will be here before you know it, and after a glorious holiday season we will have even more reasons to celebrate!


Sometimes, no matter how many healthy practices we put into place, the holidays just bring a person down. For the millions of Americans affected by depression, the 12-plus days of Christmas (or Kwanza or Hanukkah or whatever you celebrate) only exacerbate the condition, especially for those separated from family and/or without a strong social network. In these situations, the above tips still apply; however, for those feeling seriously alone, reach out to your religious/spiritual community for support. If your family and friends are out of town, share e-mails and photos, and phone calls. Also consider donating your time to charity. Look around your community for ways to help with gift drives, meal deliveries, et cetera. It’s good for the soul, good for your neighbors, and a great way to connect with new people.

In related news, an extensive government study suggests that two-thirds of those suffering from depression can eventually be helped if they are patient enough to keep trying medications until they find one that works—maybe. For some, the more tries they make, the more likely it is that they will later relapse and slide back into depression.

In the six-year, $35 million study, 3,671 patients were given one popular anti-depressant, and nearly 37 percent had their depression go into remission after the first try. Others moved on to a second medication; 31 percent of that group found success. In total, 67 percent of the patients were helped by medication after trying out a maximum of four drugs. However, 40 percent of those who achieved remission on their first drug relapsed within a year. That number rose to 55 percent of those who took two tries to succeed and 65 percent and 70 percent of those requiring three and four tries, respectively. Studies on the effectiveness of counseling are forthcoming.


Before you pop that pill, think about this: The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports that pharmaceutical drug errors injure1.5 million Americans and kill several thousand each year. Incorrect dosage is only part of the problem. IOM is asking for more comprehensive drug evaluations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and better education in safety protocols for medical, nursing, and pharmacy students, among other points. They also stress that patients take a more attentive and assertive stance toward their own healthcare. Conversely, only 1,136 Americans experienced adverse effects from herbal medicine (ephedra excluded) in 2004. A growing amount of research suggests promising results from herbal extracts, including Ginkgo Leaf Extract for memory loss, St. John’s Wort for mild cases of depression, and Asian Ginseng, Garlic, and Green Tea for reducing cancer risk. Rather than self-treat, please discuss these options with your physician and seek a practitioner trained in herbal medicine.


Merck & Co. Inc, publishers of “The Merck Manuals”, a series of popular medical reference books, has launched “Your Health Now”, a new health magazine with information gleaned from their internationally known reference manuals. The latest issue has news and features covering everything from battling addiction and beating stress to caring for your pet. Download the debut issue at


Two issues ago, I mentioned a few healthful concoctions (Kombucha, Lemon Tonic) that I enjoyed, but probably fewer than one percent of the U.S. population enjoys with me because of their unusual taste. Well, I’ve discovered another one, this time hailing from my own back yard. Born out of beloved K.K. Cafe in San Francisco’s Haight district, Signs of Wonder Peanut Milk entered the local market a few years ago and is slowly making its way across the U.S. It comes in three flavors: original, chocolate, and strawberry and tastes like a peanutty version of soymilk. Proprietor Jack Chang, who also owns K.K. Café, concocted the brew in 1999 as a way to enjoy one of his favorite foods despite a severe gum disease that prevented him from chewing them. As he perfected his drink, he made a lot of bad batches but drank all of his mistakes. A few months later, he noticed that his allergies cleared, his cold sores disappeared, and his gum disease healed. He started selling the drink out of his market not long after, and now it’s available throughout California with national distribution on the way. This all-natural, purported elixir contains peanut milk (made from water and fresh peanuts), sugar and a small amount of rice, barley, and/or millet, herbs, and natural flavors. It’s relatively low in sugar and unsaturated fat, and offers the same good stuff as peanuts themselves—B vitamins, protein, and good fats. Avid fans claim everything from cured diabetes, asthma, and arthritis; its creators credit those sorts of “wonders” to the “glory of God.” Visit for ordering info, and more information on the goodness of peanut milk. / Issue 64 - September 2018
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