By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

Social gatherings, gift giving and an abundance of decadent foods during the holiday season can be comforting, but also overwhelming.

At a time when we’re supposed to be cheerful and full of generosity, December celebrations can cause stress and burnout, generating unwanted feelings of exhaustion and frustration.

So this year, I’m bringing new self-awareness to the holidays and making some radical changes.

First and foremost, I’m skipping a long family tradition of holding a cookie bake-off. While I used to devour Christmas cookies without a second thought, I’m now sensitive to the bloat and weight gain they cause. Sugar disrupts my digestive system, and I experience a severe crash after eating it. Why would I give this same experience as a gift?

This year, in lieu of giving homemade cookies to my clients, friends and family, I’m giving them ripe, beautiful oranges and pomegranates. These foods have powerful anti-inflammatory agents, cancer-reducing properties and are beneficial to the immune system during prime flu season.

I’m also not cutting down a tree because I struggle with feelings of guilt. Traditionally, my husband would find just the right evergreen and bring it home for me to decorate. While I love the look and smell of a Christmas tree in the house, in a time when global warming can no longer be ignored I want living trees to stay standing and absorbing carbon dioxide, in return for the oxygen they provide.

There are many wonderful do-it-yourself ideas on the Internet that explain how to display your favorite Christmas ornaments on a colorful and cool makeshift tree. We plan on stringing lights to the wall in the shape of a Christmas tree and place presents under there. Buying a potted tree is another alternative – if you have a green thumb and the tree is native to your area, you can plant and nurture your tree after the ground thaws.

With short, cold days and many social gatherings, this season can be tiring, so I’m going to politely decline invitations that cause me to stretch myself too thin. Saying “no thank you” is ultimately kinder to you and loved ones than saying “yes,” if it means getting sick as a result of wearing ourselves down.

I love holiday shopping, but somehow it’s easier for me to be financially irresponsible in the name of gift giving. Unfortunately, money is the No. 1 cause of stress among Americans and this is exacerbated during the holidays.

Unmanaged stress of any kind can cause inflammation, the root of most illness. In an attempt to ward this off, I’m creating a “gift budget” and sticking to it. Origami ornaments will be lovingly made for all my friends and family this year.

What are your triggers this time of year? What new traditions can you create to ring in the New Year more happily, healthfully and energetically? Encourage your friends and family as well, so you can assist each other to bring deeper meaning to the holidays.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at