The holiday season is just around the corner – a time to connect with friends and relatives and emerge feeling refreshed. Or not. Even those of us lucky enough to live in the relative halcyon of the French Riviera can experience the holidays as overwhelmingly stressful. The combined effect of increased family obligations and overindulgences of the festive season can leave us guilt-ridden and completely lacking the motivation needed to tackle New Year’s resolutions.
As a qualified nutritionist, I’m aware of the dangers of stress when it comes to our heart and our immune system. It’s no coincidence that the festive season brings an increase in cardiac events, as well as heightened vulnerability to infectious bugs making their rounds along the coast at this time of year. Considering how closely the brain and gut interact, it’s easy to understand how the intense feelings connected with the holidays (frustration, anger, elation and isolation – to name a few) can trigger a number of familiar and distressing digestive symptoms. When prolonged, stress can even shrink our brain and add fat around our belly (not ideal for that LBD).
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to help the body react better to inevitable strain and boost our immunity and enjoyment of the season, but the main thing is to realise that this needs to be done on a daily basis – not just on weekends.
Yoga is a stress-busting technique that integrates mental, physical and spiritual aspects. Health benefits from regular practice include improved sleep and immune function and reduced food cravings and emotional eating. There is no shortage of yoga centres to choose from along the French Riviera – from Sunshine Yoga at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel (www.yogamontecarlo.com) to Elanda Villa Wellness Centre in Cap d’Ail (www.clairesmyth.com). Check listings for yoga in your area.
Meditation is another very effective way to decrease stress hormones and reduce anxiety. Transcendental Meditation (or TM, for short) is a technique that is becoming especially popular because it’s simple to learn and fits in easily to busy lives. Repeating a mantra allows the body to settle into a state of profound rest and the mind to achieve a state of inner peace, without concentration or effort. It’s taught on a one-on-one basis by a certified TM teacher. One such instructor is Dr Michel Plantié who, with over thirty years of experience, has now made Transcendental Meditation available to everyone on the Riviera (http://monaco.tm.org).
Finally, it’s hard to overestimate the effect that food and drink have on our mood and ability to deal with pressure. It’s tempting to jump on board the sugar, caffeine, booze and white flour train that are ever present during the festive season – and they happen to be exactly what we crave. But overdoing places us in a vicious cycle. The Clever Kitchen (www.theclever.kitchen) can help put you on the right track with a workshop dedicated to managing stress with super foods on Thursday December 10th, 2015, at Stars ’n’ Bars Monaco.
So as we head into Christmas, give yourself the gift that will keep on giving: master your stress.