“Rest And Digest” –The Key To Avoiding Holiday Stress


It’s almost time, once again, for religious holidays, end of year celebration & reflection, and anticipation of the promise of a new year. Events like these call forth many emotions. For some, a time of joy and tradition as they gather with family and friends in celebration. For others, this time of year brings emotional loneliness and depression. Regardless, many people end up feeling the stress and pressure of the season—as opposed to the joy—as multiple commitments grow closer with the end of yet another year.

I have lost three people in my family since last year at this time. My ninety-six year old Aunt, who raised me since I was 8 years old, died suddenly the day after Mother’s Day of a massive brain hemorrhage. My cousin died this summer after a lengthy battle, and an enormous amount of suffering, from ovarian cancer.

This past Friday, I lost another cousin—this one the picture of health—from a pulmonary embolism. Last January we were all together and none of us had a clue what 2015 had in store for us.

I used to be a Type A Perfectionist. If someone had all their Christmas shopping done in July, I thought there was something wrong with me. Some people have their Christmas cookies baked and delivered by November 30. I have baked mine on Christmas Day in years past. It used to stress me out. In my often ego driven youth, stress for perfection replaced what really mattered to me—spending every moment with the ones I love. Whenever I’ve gotten the dreaded call that a loved one has died, having a spotless house is the last thing on my mind!

More than any other factor—you have to decrease or eliminate STRESS. Holidays are not about knocking people over at midnight on Black Friday to get a good deal or worrying about limiting calories (which causes stress). Holidays are about gratitude, going home, catching up, special traditions, enjoying good food, family, and friends. The opposite of stress is “Rest and Digest, ” and this—more than anything will make you “Merry.”

Your sympathetic nervous system is one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system. This system operates your “Fight or Flight” response to stress. This system is designed for temporary emergency situations and requires all your energy to be focused and used to save your life. Stress hormones are secreted to raise your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, dilate your pupils, relax your lungs, and shut down digestion, elimination, reproduction, etc.—anything unnecessary for fight or flight. This is hard wired into your DNA to save your life.

The opposite of fight or flight is “Rest and Digest.” The parasympathetic nervous system operates the activities of daily living. The heart rate is slowed to conserve energy. Energy is directed to digestion and absorption of nutrients by increasing production of saliva, mucous, & digestive enzymes; as well as increased intestinal motility and timely elimination.

You can’t have it both ways—a critical point to understand. If you are stressed out for any reason—you can’t rest and digest. Think of it this way—you can’t be awake and asleep at the same time. You can’t increase and decrease your blood pressure simultaneously. Each system secretes hormones to support its particular function, and shuts down the hormones responsible for the opposite.

Hormones are chemical messengers that tell your body what to do. Hormones run every function of your body—delivering messages from brain to organ.

Guess what guys? It isn’t just a “woman” thing after all!

If you are stressed, you secrete stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Digestion is shut down because if you’re running from or fighting with a predator, you don’t have time for a candlelight dinner.

Enzymes are critical molecules that act as catalysts to accelerate chemical reactions involved in hormonal functions. Enzymes carry out every chemical reaction both inside the individual cell and outside. Each of us has approximately 75,000 enzymes within us and there is a specific one for each specific chemical reaction. Enzymes break down or join together molecules to carry out chemical processes. In the process of digestion, enzymes speed up the break down of food you eat into micronutrients to be absorbed and assimilated by your body for energy. The lack of just one enzyme can cause major issues on an entire system whether it is digestion, circulation, reproduction, elimination, or even cancerous tumors. Many cutting edge, scientific studies show that the majority of chronic disease is caused by the long-term deficiency of micronutrients both inside and outside the cell.

The only way to get live enzymes in your body is to eat live raw photon (energy transferred from the sun) rich food. Vegetables and green plants store photons and transfer that energy from the sun to your body when you consume them raw. Cooking food over 110 degrees destroys the enzymes. Processed food has no nutritional value and since most of what we eat is processed or cooked, over time we lose our ability to produce enzymes necessary to break down our food into the micronutrients we must have to survive. Prescription drugs can inhibit our production of enzymes. Any drug that “blocks” or “inhibits”—most likely does so to enzymes. (Statins block Coenzyme Q10 in your liver; Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors affect your heart)

You can eat the best food, take all the right supplements, and follow the best medical advice, but if you can’t break down that food and absorb it, it won’t do you any good at all! And if you’re stressed out –forget it—your digestive system is shut down. Your reproductive system is shut down. Your elimination system is shut down.

Chewing starts the process of digestion. When you chew your food slowly and with gratitude, your brain sends a chemical message to your stomach to increase the production of salivary enzymes. If you chew your raw food well, you do not need fiber supplements, stool softeners, or laxatives. Remember (listed above) the processes of the parasympathetic nervous system—increase saliva and digestive enzymes (to speed up digestion) and increase intestinal motility and mucous. Older people with poor fitting teeth or those who eat soft cooked diets–can’t chew properly and lack the enzymes necessary to properly break down food. If you take proton pump inhibitors like the “purple pill”—you are blocking (inhibiting) the production of saliva and enzymes because those pills try to limit the production of them to prevent “acid indigestion.” The opposite is true—you don’t have enough enzymes to create saliva, break down food, keep it from getting stuck in your throat or stuck in your colon and eliminate it. Without digestive enzymes or if you are eating under stressful conditions—your saliva is acidic—not because you make too much of it—because you are producing too little.. Slow down and chew.

If you eat a lot of cooked or processed food, juicing is a good way to get live enzymes in your body. Also, you might want to consider supplementing with digestive enzymes. There are many brands out there. You can find them online or locally. Remember—proper rest (8 hours is best) and digestion is critical during these busy times. As we celebrate the Holidays, the end of one year and the beginning of a new one—make the choice to live each day appreciating every moment–eating slowly, consciously, and with gratitude—loving the gift of time spent with friends and family—and getting plenty of rest. Reach out to someone who is alone or less fortunate. None of us is promised anything other than this moment.
Forgive, let go, and just be love.

Wishing you the best 2016 ever!
May every day be filled with love and light








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Thomasina Copenhaver
Thomasina Copenhaver is a naturopathic doctor and registered nurse with over 30 years experience in the healthcare profession. Her passion is writing, researching, and empowering all humans with knowledge of healing at the cellular level; to enable them to make educated and informed choices regarding their health. For more information visit her website: notesfromanaturopath.com or to buy her book, "Notes from a Naturopath" visit Amazon or Barnes and Noble.