Tag Archives: holiday stress

Comfort Foods Can Be Healthy Too

foodWhile the holidays are typically a season of celebration and joy, this time of year may trigger feelings of loneliness, loss or difficult emotions for some. Whether you’re missing your family back home, or are tense after a disagreement with your spouse over holiday budgeting, turning to food for comfort is often accompanied by poor nutritional choices.

So what should you eat when your emotions are eating you?

Contrary to popular belief, not all stress eating is bad for you. In fact, eating the right foods when you’re emotions are running high can actually help calm you down. Try switching your usual comfort foods for these quick and healthy snacks to get you back in the holiday spirit (and to avoid the guilt of overeating):

  • Instead of dipping into the cookie jar…go for a handful of almonds.
    Almonds contain a winning stress-relief combination: vitamin B12, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc. For those who take to the peanut butter jar with a tablespoon – go for a spoonful of almond butter instead!
  • Swap the chips and dip for avocado slices.
    If you’re craving something rich and satisfying, go for the “good fat.” The monounsaturated fats and potassium found in avocado can lower blood pressure. Make your own guacamole for a special treat that will have the whole family at peace!
  • Meat lover? Try a salmon burger instead of ground beef.
    Salmon is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which not only fight heart disease, but can keep cortisol and adrenaline levels in check. What does that mean? You’ll be able to calm down and relax after a stressful event, instead of remaining tense and “wound up.”
  • Need something sweet and colorful? Go for a bowl of blueberries and cantaloupe.
    Put down the M&Ms! Blueberries and cantaloupe are just as colorful and easy on the eye, and are full of stress-busting antioxidants and Vitamin C.
  • Oatmeal is the perfect hearty comfort food.
    Carbohydrates trigger the release of serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone. Smart carb choices in moderation are key, which is why a good old-fashioned bowl of oatmeal will do the trick to get you out of your Grinch-like funk, while keeping cravings at bay. The high fiber content will keep you fuller longer. Here’s a tip: instead of buying the flavored oatmeal loaded with sugar, buy plain oatmeal, add some fresh blueberries, and sweeten it to your taste.

Eating the right foods may not get to the cause of your stress, but it will prevent you from dealing with the added stress of trying to lose the extra pounds caused by emotional eating. Take control of your stress eating this holiday season and fuel your body with the right nutrients to keep you cool, calm and collected.

For more tips and strategies visit Navy Nutrition online.

Getting Ahead of the Humbugs

H4HWith the holidays approaching, you may experience mixed emotions about family gatherings—especially if you’ve spent a lot of time away from home and loved ones recently. Whether it’s encountering a person that you’ve struggled to get along with in the past, or even a seasonal tradition that you no longer feel connected with, there are bound to be elements of the holidays that can be…well…irritating.

The transition from high operational tempo and incredible mission demands, to basting turkeys, singing carols and toasting with champagne, can be difficult to navigate. Here are a few ways to apply three of the 5 Principles of Resilience (Predictability, Controllability, Relationships, Trust and Meaning) to stressful holiday situations to help you get a better grasp on “the humbugs” and enjoy your well-deserved time off for merriment and relaxation:

  1. Predictability: If you can predict something, you can prepare for it. Rather than trying to avoid the thoughts, situations or people that may dampen your holiday spirit, accept them and try to move forward. Make a plan for how you’ll deal with these situations, positively, rather than letting them weigh on you. Maybe you’ll find something in common with “weird Uncle Lester,” or realize that caroling really doesn’t bother you so much after all.
  2. Controllability: You can prepare for the predictable, but inevitably there are some things that may be outside of your control. Maybe you feel obligated to attend three different family dinners because you’ve been away and everyone wants to see you. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and sort through what you can and cannot control. You might not be able to please everyone and make it to all three dinners across town within two hours, but you can regain a sense of control by deciding which suits your schedule best. Don’t feel guilty for declining an invite!
  3. Meaning: To Thrive during the Holidays, it’s most important to stay focused on what this time of year means to you. Whether you observe the religious significance, look forward to a little time to kick back with your shipmates, or just enjoy the company of friends and family, remember that this is a season of hope. Be grateful for the challenges, triumphs and positivity in your life—they all build resilience!

Whatever humbugs and sticky situations you may encounter, assure yourself that you can navigate through these challenges and still enjoy the holidays without feeling like a scrooge. For more strategies to  defeat holiday stress, check out “6 Strategies for Beating the Holiday Blues” on the Chaplain Corps Live blog.

If you or someone you know is having a hard time navigating stress this holiday season or any time of year, help is always available. Dial 1-800-273-8255 (Option 1) for the Veteran’s Crisis Line, or 1-855-NAVY-311 for ChaplainCare. It’s okay to speak up when you’re down.

Resilience and Fun with Food

Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, the OPNAV N17 Nutrition Programs Manager, is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. He has nearly 10 years of experience in counseling thousands of service members and their families on nutrition and health-related issues, having delivered close to 600 nutrition-related lectures to more than 20 commands and institutions across the DoD. With a passion for promoting nutritional awareness to enhance health and quality of life for individuals and populations, Lt. Cmdr. Sood hopes to offer simple and practical ways to maintain healthy eating practices 365 days a year. He is a firm believer in the phrase “Food is Medicine,” and that every individual should embrace this idea to help them think about food as a therapeutic agent, thus leading to food choices that are beneficial rather than detrimental to overall health.
NavyNavStress.com note

December… a month filled with family and friends, deadlines, gift-giving and the anticipation of the New Year…. and a lot of delicious food!

The key to enjoying the flavors of the holidays without the guilt is through conscious planning. Exercise controllability, one of the Five Principles of Resilience, and take the reins when you can, while still recognizing old and creating new traditions. Here are a few ideas to enhance your controllability:

  • Decide on a theme and invite your family and friends to bring healthy variations of traditional indulgences.  An example would be a candy cane-themed event. Someone tasked with dessert could make brownies using pureed pumpkin in place of eggs and oil, and sprinkling a crushed candy cane on top.
  • Engage children (at their skill level) to reduce the stress of preparing entire meals. Examples include:
    • Engage a 5 or 6 year old with some easy tasks, like washing vegetables, pressing the cookie cutter or mixing baking ingredients in a large bowl.
    • Older children can manage more complicated tasks, such as cutting foods with a table knife, stirring something on the stove top, using the microwave or toaster oven or following a recipe to make their own dish!
    • Eating with others, as opposed to eating alone, helps to avoid overeating.  One great way to take delight in food is to invite family and friends to bring a new main dish, side dish or dessert, and have a taste-test contest with prizes for each category.  This will help you savor a little bit of everything in moderation and prevent overeating.

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and involving family and friends builds cheer and resilience. Doing so minimizes and prevents stress that comes from having to plan or prepare everything yourself and it reinforces relationships.  Using these simple strategies will reduce stress eating, so your New Year’s resolution does not include a weight loss goal.

Visit Navy Nutrition Resources for links to more tips and ideas on healthy eating strategies!

Building Resilience – One small change at a time

Individual resilience requires life balance and the Navy’s people programs offer ways to develop that balance through enhancement of our physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological well being.

Over the last few months, many Navy people program subject matter experts joined to offer practical tips on how our Sailors, their families, civilians and leaders can lessen the stress that often accompanies the holidays. These stories, blog posts, tweets and Face Book postings all offer ways to reduce stress today and explain how together these small changes can help build resilience over time.

“Active resilience building activities like having a good fitness routine, eating balanced diet, developing a strong spiritual foundation, and taking time to have fun can mitigate stress. When those activities are developed in concert with the resilience principles of predictability, controllability, relationships, trust and meaning,” said Navy Behavioral Health Director, Capt. Kurt Scott, “they form the basis for the holistic approach to improving readiness, fitness and a sense of well-being.”

Our Navy Personnel Programs and partner organizations have members with a wealth of knowledge and experience, Scott added. “We need to follow their recommendations on how to keep to an exercise routine, develop and manage a budget or how to plan for fun if we want to become be better prepared to respond to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.”

Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Wallinger, a nutritionist and Lt. Cmdr. Austin Latour an exercise physiologist both with the Navy Physical Readiness Office, Dorice Favorite, director, Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office (NADAP), and personal financial management specialist Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, from the Fleet & Family Support Center in Millington, Tenn. have all provided practical ways to navigate holiday stress. See their tips in the Navy News Stand articles below or read our blog postings by Navy Chaplains Tim Overturf with the 2d Marine Division and Andrew P. Sholtes from the Naval Medical Center San Diego on how to make new holiday traditions while building better family and spiritual relationships.

Use these techniques to reduce stress with regular exercise, for planning more nutritious meals, for understanding the keys to responsible drinking behaviors and for managing your financial health.  These stories were written for the holidays but the strategies can help you all year long.

Celebrate – And Arrive Home Safely
Physical Fitness: Make A Contract With Yourself
Protect Your Identity – During And After The Holidays
Plan Ahead To Avoid DUI
The Skinny on Stress Eating
Balance Your Shopping Cart, Plate
Exercise Schedule will Help Keep Holiday Stress at Bay
Don’t be a Regretful Holiday Host
Holiday Spending – Don’t Go Broke Trying to Save
Financial Planning to Survive the Holidays
Avoid Holiday Stress_ Don’t Forget to Plan for Fun
Make Gift-Giving Plans Early To Avoid Stress, Save Budget

Making a List and Checking it Twice


“Making a list and checking it twice” isn’t just what Santa does when he’s loading up his sleigh with toys. It’s what smart shoppers do before they hit the stores to start buying holiday gifts. You may have already overcome the urge to give into the kids’ pleadings for the latest expensive gadget, but unless you have a plan you can find yourself giving into the alluring “buy now, pay later” deals once you’re in the stores.

You may have read our post “It’s time to start budgeting for the holidays”   in October. Now that the holidays are getting closer, revisit your holiday spending plans. In the earlier blog post, Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, Financial Counselor at the Fleet & Family Support Center Millington, TN gave great tips on prioritizing gifts and establishing spending limits. Unwrap even more helpful advice from her in the new Navy.mil story “Holiday Spending- Don’t Go Broke Trying to Save.”

If you haven’t already, start your holiday shopping by giving yourself a present first-sticking to your shopping list! The rewards of spending within your means will last far beyond the holidays, and you’ll ring in the New Year with satisfaction-not big bills and buyer’s remorse.

Apply the Principles of Resilience to your holiday shopping plans, so that your finances can “bounce back” from gift-giving. Controllability is one principle that is particularly helpful while shopping on a budget. You may not be able to control how long a sale lasts, but you do have the power to decide that it’s okay to miss out on the “best prices of the year” for items that weren’t on your shopping list. When you’re faced with temptations in the stores, remind yourself that you have control. “Identify whether you will actually use the item, and if the item being advertised is a ‘want’ or a ‘need.’ If you are on a tight budget it will help you weed out the non-essentials,” Livingstone-Hoyte says in the Navy.mil story. Don’t hesitate to pull out your list whenever you find yourself questioning an item in the aisles.

Remember, it doesn’t have to come from a store to be special. Military OneSource offers a variety of tips on ways to save money over the holidays and how to encourage generosity and the gift of giving. Taking your family to donate clothes or volunteer at a food bank can help everyone refocus on what’s important and recognize there are people whom are less fortunate. That will surely earn them a spot on Santa’s “Nice List!”