The “most wonderful time of the year” may not exactly deliver on its promise. For many people, the holidays spell additional stressors, from feelings of grief over the loss of a loved one, anxiety from hosting family and their relationship dynamics, or just simply trying to make sure everyone on your list has a thoughtful and well-curated gift. However, this year’s holiday season looks very different from previous years, as families and households across the country are being asked to keep travel to a minimum, limit visitation with others, and are encouraged to do their holiday shopping from home. We may find ourselves more nostalgic than ever for the usual traditions of the holiday season.
Self-care and keeping a healthy immune system seem more important than ever, especially as we’re now faced with the twofold blow of life during Coronavirus while entering into the darkest and coldest nights of the winter season. Seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD, is a type of depression that occurs in climates where there is less sunlight. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. All this adds up to an extra-challenging holiday season for those who may already be struggling with Corona isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
All of these stressors can add up to inflammation and the release of hormones into the body that weaken the immune system, which is the last thing that would be helpful given the circumstances. While everyone’s wellness journey over the winter months ahead will be unique to every individual, here are a few suggestions from Vital Leaf’s CEO, Christina Sasser, to hopefully bring some deep nourishment to your self-care festivities that’ll help keep hope and cheerfulness alive in this strange holiday season.
Revel in Rest
While normally the holidays can be a somewhat frenetic time, this year provides an opportunity to slow things down and take more rest. There is plenty of evidence that shows how our sleep cycles and circadian rhythms play a crucial role in our immune system function. Check out our blog article, CBD and Tips for Better sleep, to learn more about the research that shows how CBD can be helpful in increasing sleeping time and reducing insomnia. With longer nights and shorter days, this is a powerful time to focus on getting plenty of restful sleep at night, which will in turn help to keep your spirits merry and bright.
Keep It Simple
Things are not normal this year, and it can feel helpful to just simply admit that to ourselves. Finances may be tighter, and patience may be thinner. Instead of trying to pretend that this new reality isn’t frustrating and difficult, maybe we can let ourselves off the hook more this holiday season. Simplifying expectations and surrendering to what is can actually be a powerful way of navigating through this. Take some of the pressure off yourself to send gifts far and wide, unless it truly brings you joy. If you find yourself stressing over online shopping, shipping deadlines, Christmas decorating, or sending out your traditional holiday cards, then it might be a good opportunity to just simply let it go. Nobody will judge you for taking a step back from forcing old formalities.
Dance, Be Jolly, and Make Good Cheer!
With its disease-fighting abilities and anti-aging benefits, dancing is a fantastic way to strengthen your immune system. Dance can bring about feelings of joy and it primes our brain for connection. Even when you dance solo, it still produces the neurochemical changes in your brain that make it more likely for you to connect with others. So, put on some cheesy holiday tunes or a favorite album and throw yourself a dance party in the living room in your pj’s and slippers.
Also, don’t forget to smile and laugh! Laughter is a natural immune booster. Watch a favorite stand-up comedian or a classic comedy movie from your childhood. Have a snowball fight in the yard, or play fun games with your pod at home. Seek out silliness, child-like innocence and play, and really tune into celebrating moments of lightness and humor.
Stay Connected to Others
Although we are being asked to socially distance, which for many of us means feelings of isolation and loneliness, remember that you are not alone. It’s more important than ever to reach out to others, like friends, family, co-workers, or even a counselor offering telehealth sessions. Set up video calls or be spontaneous and make a phone call out of the blue, which can often be a refreshing way to reconnect, even if it’s been a while. It’s especially a good time to check in with folks in your life that might be extra vulnerable during this time to see if there is a way that you can support them, or simply be an ear to listen.
Practice Generosity of Spirit
Finding ways to be of service can also boost feelings of connection, so consider doing something to show you care, whether it be a partner, your kids, parents, neighbors, or for a community group that you may be involved with. Consider preparing and delivering a healthy dish to heat in the oven later to a busy mom or an elderly neighbor or relative. Or record and share a special video of you reading a poem, singing a song, or simply paying a genuine compliment to someone you love. You can even make an offering to the critters in your yard by creating a “holiday wildlife buffet” by putting orange slices, cranberries, nuts, and other bird- and squirrel-friendly foods in a birdbath or sturdy bowl, top with a little water and freeze, and then delight in watching furry and flying friends come to feast in your yard.
There are literally millions of acts of kindness and ways that we can give freely to others. While being generous of spirit means not expecting anything in return, it can actually yield much more to us than we could ever imagine, as sharing our gifts connects us to having a sense of purpose, which in turn increases our emotional health as well as the beings we touch w/ our generous gifts of spirit. What better time than now to tap into that true holiday spirit.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!
What would the holiday season be without indulgence!? Sweets, alcohol, and rich fatty foods seem to be ubiquitous. However, this year means less holiday parties with open bars and endless buffets, so it’s the best time ever to focus on eating clean and keeping your immunity strong. Instead of tempting cookies and candies, keep your counters filled with bright citrus fruits that are full of Vitamin C and are perfectly in season this time of year. Try blood oranges, navel oranges, ruby red grapefruits, tangerines, kumquats, clementines, or add fresh lemon or lime juice to sparkling waters to boost your white blood cells, which are the keys to fighting off infections.
If you can’t make it through the holidays without the usual sweet treats, then consider switching to healthier versions of classic holiday treats. With a plethora of fantastic plant-based options available, there is no excuse to not adapting your recipes to better-for-you versions. One of our favorite tricks is to swap in almond flour in cookie recipes, such as in this fantastic healthy version of holiday sugar cookies. Just a half cup of almonds provides the recommended 15 mg daily intake of Vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant that is key to a healthy immune system functioning.
Of course, we’re always big proponents of indulging in delicious CBD Chocolates! Check out our blog article Benefits of CBD Chocolate and Its Effect on Brain Health to learn more about why CBD combined with anandamide rich dark chocolate provides a powerful boost of blissful serotonin and dopamine. If you want to get fancy, you can make this beautiful CBD Chocolate Hazelnut Tart recipe for the grand finale of your holiday feast this year.
Lastly, lay off the booze. It may be tempting to run to the liquor cabinet, but while that whiskey-spiked eggnog might provide a short term buzz, alcohol is a depressant and it will ultimately disrupt serotonin levels and other neurotransmitters, which can worsen anxiety symptoms and disrupt your sleep cycles, in turn weakening your immune system. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of great drink options! Instead, we recommend instead trying one of these amazing Vital Leaf CBD and Elderberry immune-boosting “cocktail” recipes below for a powerful plant-based beverage experience that will leave you feeling strong and vitalized instead of depleted.
ELDERBERRY HOT TODDY (NON-ALCOHOLIC)
½ ounce raw apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP honey
1 ounce elderberry syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
6-8 ounces of warm to boiling water
1 ounce Elderberry Syrup
½ ounce freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
2 dashes herbal bitters
1 dropper full Vital Leaf Rose Cardamom Vanilla CBD Elixir Drops
6 oz sparkling water
1) Pour Elderberry Syrup and lemon juice into a glass over crushed ice.
2) Top up with sparkling water.
3) Add a dash of bitters, Elixir Drops, and stir. Enjoy!
ELDERBERRY PALOMA MOCKTAIL
1 ounce elderberry syrup
2 ounces grapefruit juice
4 ounces ginger-lemon kombucha
1 dropper of Vital Leaf Cardamom Vanilla Rose CBD Elixir Drops
A generous dash of grapefruit bitters
1) Pour elderberry syrup over a glass of ice.
2) Add grapefruit juice, ginger-lemon kombucha, bitters, and Elixir Drops to glass and stir.
MULLED CIDER WITH ELDERBERRY
6 ounces unfiltered apple cider
2 ounces water
1 ounce elderberry syrup
1 dropper of Vital Leaf Cardamom Rose CBD Elixir Drops
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 stick cinnamon
2 pieces star anise
1 knuckle-length knob of ginger, chopped
1) Combine spices, apple cider, and water in a saucepan and set over medium-low heat. (Feel free to experiment with other sweet and warming spices in this mix: cardamom, allspice, clove, and nutmeg are some of our favorites.)
2) Simmer spices and cider for 5 minutes then allow it to steep and cool. Bring back up to temperature and strain over a mug.
3) Add elderberry syrup and Elixir Drops; stir to combine. Enjoy!