Lion's Mane mushroom coffee during the holiday season

Self-care

Your stress-free healthy holiday guide

Nervous about the holidays? This season is notorious for being full of stress and sugar. This guide will help you get ahead of the scary s’s to stay balanced and nourished this holiday season.

Stress seems to pile up over the holidays. Whether it's the amount you are spending on holiday shopping, traveling, or the stress of family dynamics. Know that you are not alone when it comes to feeling a rise in stress around the holidays. The two biggest issues that arise this time of year are emotional stress, and the amount of sugar that is loaded into everything. Both are detrimental to your overall wellbeing. Instead of approaching the season with dread, start preparing for the season with these simple tricks and swaps to keep you and your family feeling properly nourished, energized, and healthy all season long.

Education Manager, Danielle Ryan Broida, meditating to stay calm and keep stress at bay during the holidays.

Big problems, better solutions

Picture of Adaptogen, Reishi Mushroom

Problem #1: Stress 

 It’s probably no surprise that when you’re stressed, little seems to get done. The to-do list piles up and the energy you have to accomplish everything on the list dwindles. Stress literally robs your body of energy. Being in a state of stress requires a ton of energy meaning there is less available energy for things like productivity, physical endurance, and emotional capacity. 

Solution: Adaptogens 

New to the word adaptogens? Check out this article to learn more. In short, adaptogens are a specific group of plants and mushrooms that help your body adapt to stressors. Since stressors are inevitable, especially around the holidays, it's important to give your body the tools it needs to respond to the stressor and return to a state of equilibrium as efficiently and effectively as possible. Adaptogens lessen the intensity of your response to stress, meaning less energy is wasted on the perceived stress. This also means there won’t be a state of crash and exhaustion following the stressful event. All this saved energy allows you to use that precious life force towards getting this done, showing up for your family, cooking a nourishing meal, or perhaps even taking a few moments of self-care.

Education Manager, Danielle Ryan Broida, holding a cutting board full of healthy, colorful seasonal vegetables.

Problem #2: Sugar crashing your energy 

The holidays are often an excuse to indulge in as many sweet, sugary treats as your heart desires. At the moment this may be fun, but the next morning or afternoon when your energy is low and you’re reaching for your 4th cup of coffee, it’s not as fun. My nutrition philosophy is to focus on what you can add rather than telling you not to eat your sister’s famous holiday cookies.

Solutions: Swap and fuel 

  1. Cook from scratch. One of the simplest hacks for creating healthier meals for you and your family is to cook from home. Literally just the act of cooking allows you to know exactly what is going into your meals. Starting to use whole, real food ingredients and actually measuring everything out yourself is a powerful way to cut back on the sketchy ingredients. This way, you can monitor the amount of sugar, salt, oil and every ingredient in your recipes. 

I know you’re busy so try cooking 1 or 2 meals in bulk that will last for several meals throughout the week. I try to book out an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon (or whatever day works best in your schedule!) to meal prep a 1-2 simple, hearty and healthy meals for the week. If you are slammed and don’t have time to carve out those few hours/week, you can always use a meal prep service like HelloFresh or ModelMeals that can reduce some of the prep work. 

It can also  be fun to get the family involved in the cooking with you. Instead of having the kids do an art project while eating store bought treats, can you involve them in the cooking or baking process? One of our favorite Michelin chefs also happens to be a dad. He talks about teaching his son all sorts of lessons including math through cooking and measuring. This can be a wholesale, fun and educational way to inspire and excite your kids during the holiday season. 

  1. Healthy swaps: Instead of using white, processed granulated sugar, turn towards another option that will still deliver the sweet taste you are craving without the many negative side effects of straight-up sugar. Coconut sugar and maple syrup are both rich in minerals and are simple, better-for-you, upgrades from white, table sugar. If you are ready to go one step further, consider using monk fruit which doesn’t spike your blood sugar like regular sugar does. You can also disguise real, whole foods like bananas and avocados into delicious treats. Banana ice cream and avocado chocolate mousse are two of my favorite dairy-free, plant-based, low glycemic treats for any age and any occasion. 

a. Banana ice cream: check out this super simple recipe to get started (skipping caffeine? Try Chill Decaf Ground Coffee!)

b. Avocado chocolate mousse: this mousse will totally blow your mind! 

c. Need a sweet treat before bed? Try decadent European hot chocolate, Chill Cacao with Reishi with stress-supporting adaptogen Reishi and only 2 g sugar from organic coconut palm sugar. 

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  1. Fuel up to avoid sugar cravings in the first place. 

a. Don’t skip meals, even if you’re planning a feast tonight. Eat a balanced diet full of good-for-you fats, whole grain fiber, and plenty of veggies to help you to avoid sugar cravings. Add extra drizzles of olive oil or avocado to your meals. 

b. Check if you have a veggie with each meal. Yes, even breakfast! Adding spinach to your morning smoothie counts. 

c. Make sure you are replenished in trace minerals, particularly chromium. A deficiency in chromium is often directly linked to craving more sugar. Using trace mineral drops or adding electrolytes to your water is a good place to start.

Top adaptogens for the holiday season

My favorite functional mushrooms this time of year are Reishi, Chaga and Turkey Tail. Reishi, the Queen of Mushrooms, will help keep your stress at bay. Chaga’s rich antioxidant profile will support your immune system through the change of season. Turkey Tail is your gut’s best friend, the perfect ally for a season that often ignores the health of our gut.

Hand holding a warm cup of Mushroom Cacao with Reishi

For best results, start to use these adaptogens now. Preventative support is key. This allows your body to start building a reserve of adaptive energy before it needs it. Think of this like buying a winter coat before the first snow. If you wait until the midst of the snowstorm and then go out to get your coat, you will already be cold, wet, and it will take much longer to warm up and return to a state of balance. Same goes for adaptogens. Rather than waiting until you are in the midst of the stressful holiday season to bring Chill Cacao with Reishi or Gut Health Ground Coffee into your daily routine, start now. This will ensure that you are resourced when the time comes that you need to draw upon the reserve of adaptive energy you’ve been building in preparation.

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With that, happy holidays! Cheers to mugs overflowing with functional plants and mushrooms, treats packed with real, whole foods and healthy sugar swaps, and a season of ease. We hope that with these simple tips and tricks, you can have more energy to enjoy the time with your loved ones rather than wasting that energy on the stress of it all going as planned. 

I’m reminded of the quote, “relax, nothing is under control.” Essentially, go easy on yourself. Try a swap or two and see if it leads to the energy to try one more. Remember that our goal at Four Sigmatic is to help you achieve a state of elevated wellness using the world’s most nutrient dense ingredients. Elevated wellness is not exclusive to January’s New Year resolutions or summer vacation. It’s a state that is most noticeable in the times that are typically the most challenging- like the holidays. Take this season as a way to notice a little more, take a few extra moments between projects and to-do’s, drink one extra sip of adaptogens a little slower, and see if you can start to use your freed up energy to be present and enjoy the joy of the season. 

Danielle Ryan Broida, RH (AHG)

Author: Danielle Ryan Broida, RH (AHG)

As a Registered Herbalist (AHG), Holistic Nutritionist, and Instructor of Mycology, my passions all blossom from the natural world. I believe fungi are the most important teachers on our planet, silently guiding us towards a world of more connection with each other, the earth, and the answers we need to solve many of Earth’s problems. As the current Instructor of Mycology at CSCH and Education Manager at Four Sigmatic, I’m so excited to bring you more education on functional mushrooms, adaptogens, and wellness, totally free.

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