by Jeffrey Pearson, DO

Copyright Medical Economics Magazine (Avanstar Pub) 2013

Editor’s note: The holiday season is a time for joyful celebration. But for many, these last weeks of the year are also marked by overeating, illness and stress. In the last segment of of our series, our guest blogger, Jeffrey Pearson, DO shares his advice on how to stay healthy this holiday season. Dr. Pearson is a board certified Family and Sports Medicine physician. He can be reached at Graybill’s Medicine-in-Motion Office, 120 Craven Road, Suite 101, San Marcos CA, 92078. Telephone: 760-591-0955.

“I’m So Stressed!”

It’s been said “stress makes life more interesting” and, according to my recent fortune cookie experience, Confucius said “May you live in interesting times.” Aside from the fact that stress makes people uncomfortable to varying degrees, it also stimulates cortisol that deposits belly fat potentially leading to weight gain and perhaps even more stress. Consider the following “Jedi Mind Tricks” to keep you sane over the holidays.

Attitude is everything

How you look at things matters. Remember that these same holidays recur every year. This takes the pressure off from thinking that something absolutely must be done this year. It’s okay to skip a particular tradition this year and do it the next instead.

Learn to say “No”

Avoid burnout by learning how to say “no.” You do not have to attend every party to which you’re invited. Simplify your life and take some breaks.

Want to volunteer? Great, but don’t feel obligated to take on more than you can handle.

Hang with friends and focus on others

Surround yourself with “positive energy” types.

Overwhelmed fighting crowded stores for gifts? Consider giving back to the community by volunteering (local toy drives, food banks, etc.) (But again, as mentioned above, don’t take on more than you can handle!)

Consider choosing charity gifts whereby you send out gift cards that allow the recipient to select the charity of their choice. Per the Broadway show Avenue Q, “When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself!” It’s true – you’ll feel better.

Get enough sleep

When the body gets run down, the first system to falter is the immune system rendering you more susceptible to getting sick. Ever notice how herpes-type viral infections (e.g. fever blisters, shingles) always seem to erupt at those times? You’ll fight off the flu better if you’re well rested.

Stay active

Exercise is very good for maintaining weight and for stress reduction. Get those endorphins pumping with regular mild-to-moderate aerobic activities 3-5 times week. If possible, aim for intensity level where you can talk, but not sing. Light weight training 2-3 times per week tones muscles helping to better regulate the body’s insulin levels, as well.

Pamper yourself

It’s been a long, tough year for many. You owe it to yourself to do something selfish just for you. Consider arranging for a massage or perhaps indulge in some healthy dark chocolate and red wine!

Be flexible/adaptable to change

Life is an improvisation. The basic tenet of improv is to agree and move the scene forward. You must accept what is handed to you and build upon it for the betterment of the group. Likewise, there are no “do-overs” in life. It changes continually. Learning how to accept that which cannot be changed and move forward is an important coping skill.


While on the subject of impov, laughing significantly reduces the levels of stress hormones. Rent comedies for example (the holiday classic “A Christmas Story”and “Elf” are good choices). Find a good joke and learn how to tell it well. Share it with others. And, who knows? Lowering your cortisol levels through laughing just might help you to lose that belly fat!

Take a deep breath

Learn to meditate and relax. Be mindful of what goes on around you in your life. Learn to take a deep breath.

Wishing you all a healthy, happy, and stress-free holiday season!