Thriving Throughout the Holidays

By Shaya Mercer, Nutritional Counselor

In this period between Thanksgiving and New Years, when there is so much going on in such a short amount of time, it is rare that people focus on slowing down and taking care of themselves. Yet, as mammals we are meant to be hibernating now that the days are shorter and the nights are colder. Winter hibernation provides a much needed respite from the warmer and busier months of the year. But instead we are typically out running around, from store to store and party to party, which can lead to eating too much, drinking too much, and spending too much (if not money, than certainly energy), if we aren't mindful. So how can we take better care of ourselves during the frenetic holiday hub-bub, you ask? 

Here are three essential tips for experiencing greater well-being during the winter holiday season. By focusing on these three things, you will feel more nourished and less depleted over the holidays and through the winter. And the best part is that these recommendations won't cost you a cent! 

1. Get to bed early. We all have 24 hours in our daily time budgets, and most of us spend eight of those hours sleeping. But what time you get your eight hours will make the difference between having good energy and feeling run-down. You will experience the most non-REM sleep earlier in the night, between 9pm and 5am, which allows your body to repair and restore itself from the stress of the day. Even if you don't eat or drink too much, staying up late can make you feel hungover in the morning.  

2. Stay hydrated. Our bodies require steady hydration throughout the day to function properly. Dehydration is an underlying cause of many issues in the body including digestive upset, low energy, brain fog, carb cravings, achy joints, and crabby moods. Focus on hydration first thing in the morning and between meals. Before you reach for caffeine, sugar, alcohol, or bready treats ask yourself if you've had enough water. Because dehydration leads to low energy it can cause us to reach for those quick energy solutions that ultimately lead to an energy crash.  If you are thirsty before bed, that's a sign that you didn't hydrate enough during the day.   

3. Focus on being present. The greatest gift you can give another person is your undivided attention, even if just for a brief moment. When our spirits are truly nourished by our interactions with friends and family over the holidays we are less likely to over indulge our body's cravings for nourishment through food and drink. Have you ever noticed that when you are engaged in a great conversation you tend to forget to finish what's on your plate? So try connecting more with the humans than hors d'oeuvres at your holiday party and see what you notice. 

I Almost Got Sick

Just the other day I woke up exhausted, my ritual morning coffee did nothing for me, in fact it drained my energy further.  As the day proceeded I developed pressure in my head and soreness around my neck.  By 3:00 in the afternoon I was finally admitting to myself that I was coming down with something so I put my naturopathic preventative and supportive measures into high gear.  Skipping to the end of the story, 24 hours later I no longer had symptoms and my energy was better than it had been in weeks.  Here’s what I did, and what I tell my patients to do all the time:

Creating an Environmentally Conscious Medical Practice

As I sit here a month (to the day) before doors open at Northwest Life Medicine Clinic.  I find myself spending an excessive amount of time surfing the web for organic sheets and towels and feeling compelled to write about how my new practice will have a strong focus on environmental sustainability and non-toxic materials.  Medicine is inherently a waste-producing industry.  In efforts to keep bio-hazard exposures to a minimum, health care professionals often have to resort to single use, plastic-based materials that are sent off to a landfill after their short essential job is done.  Much of this is unavoidable, (no one wants a recycled IV bag and catheter, for example) however, I'm on a mission to find alternative options wherever possible. 

The environment we live in plays a tremendous role in our health, something I work with my patients on everyday.  My definition of environmental health focuses around the health of the planet and how that effects the health of us human beings on an individual level.  This is why every decision in the process of opening the Northwest Life Medicine Clinic has gone through an environmental health filter, so to speak.  Here's a list of some of the sustainable decisions made thus far for NWLMC operations:

  • Where landfill waste can't be avoided or for services, companies are being selected that use environmentally and socially sustainable practices and are local to our primary location in Bellingham, WA. 
  • As renovations are underway, hardwood flooring is being installed and no VOC (volatile organic compound) paint is being used.  We have also had a Austin Air Medical Grade air purifier running 24/7 while we are working to be sure any material off-gassing that happens is filtered out of the environment right away.  
  • An Austin Air filter will be running 24/7 once the clinic opens to reduce airborne toxins and allergens making the office a safe place for those with sensitivities. 
  • Patients will enjoy filtered water from our in-house Berkey water filter which removes 99.99% of pathogens, heavy metals, and chemicals from water.  They will also have the option of using this water for locally-sourced, organic tea during their visits. 
  • Organic, non-toxic, and compostable supplies are being purchased where possible: exam table sheets, hand towels, pillows, etc... This is not only for a non-toxic clinic environment, but also to support the companies and farmers working hard to use organic practices. 
  • The office will be as paperless as possible with an electronic medical records and faxing system.  The paper that we do use will be recycled paper and/or made from alternative renewable resources such as hemp. 

This will be a topic of constant updating and focus, but I just wanted to give everyone a sneak peak while the Northwest Life Medicine Clinic is getting up and running.  Please feel free to email with any questions you have regarding these practices or if you have some helpful insights as I move forward with my mission to practice environmentally conscious medicine!


Dr. Jenna

Collard Wrap BLTs

First comes spring, then comes summer…and with summer comes the cravings for light, pack-able meals.  This simple wrap hits all the check points for a satisfying gluten free meal on the go. I make this for a nutritious work/school lunch or for day hikes and even better it can be made the the night before for a quick morning.

Ingredients (per wrap):

  • 2 medium-to-large collard leaves
  • 2 slices of [sugar free] bacon, cut in half
  • 1 handful of salad greens, with or without your dressing of choice
  • 2 hefty slices of avocado
  • 1-2 slices [heirloom] tomato
  • 1 Tbsp [sugar free] mayo
  • [Optional} 1-2 slices roasted turkey breast


  1. Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil (big enough to dip your collard leaves into)
  2. Dip collard leaves into boiling water until soft and bright green (about 15-30 seconds)
  3. Lay soft collard leaves flat, forming 2 layers.
  4. Add wrap ingredients to center of top leaf and wrap the top layer like a burrito.
  5. Flip the collard wrap over and roll burrito-style again with the bottom leaf to create two layers (leak control) of collard leaf wraps.
  6. Cut in half and enjoy!