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Kirkland’s Gift Guide + Tips for Relieving Holiday Stress

Wellness Stocking Gifts Guide

Mountain Trek’s Stocking Stuffer Gift Guide for Wellness

There’s nothing more enjoyable than giving a gift to someone who absolutely loves it. However, this can be tough if we’re looking for smaller items for stocking stuffers or are limited to a “Secret Santa” budget at the office or have dozens of friends we want to surprise. Especially in this day and age when we’re surrounded by so many consumables that it’s difficult to get a gift that is not only thoughtful but also promotes vitality and wellness. (In other words, the opposite of a box of Turtles.) We sat down with Mountain Trek manager and head guide Kirkland Shave to ask him what stocking stuffers he plans on giving this holiday season and what he is hoping to receive.

#1. Homemade gift certificates

These are by far some of the most popular (and least expensive) gifts of all time. Present your friends with a coupon for a “free night of babysitting” so they can get away and enjoy each other’s company. Or offer your spouse a booklet filled with different certificates for such things as a foot massage, homemade dinner and back rub. Or your elderly neighbour a free driveway shovelling session. Anything is possible with some paper, pens and a lot of empathy and imagination.

#2. F.lux Software

Just download the free F.lux software to your partner’s phone, tablet and computer and it will make the colour of their screen adapt to the time of day – warm at night and like sunlight during the day. No more eerie, bright blue light stimulating cortisol levels at 9:30 pm! Their sleep patterns will improve and their eyes will thank them (and you) for it.

#3. Spa voucher

Everyone loves a trip to the local spa for a relaxing massage or detoxifying Infra red sauna. Even if the voucher isn’t for the entire cost of the treatment, it will still be greatly appreciated and will help go towards the receiver’s stress relief and well-being.

#4. Home-cooked food

And by food we don’t mean cookies filled with butter, sugar and chocolate. Instead we’re talking about items that a person can store away and then bring out when they’re strapped for time to make something of their own. (Or they could always eat them on the spot, too.) For example: frozen soups, dips and dressings (like our Afterglow Almond Butter Dressing), or beautiful tins filled with mixed nuts and fruit you dehydrated yourself. Remember to keep the food offerings healthy and convenient and the receiver will be grateful the next time they’re hungry and go to the cupboard and fridge and find your healthy food gift there for them.

#5. Aromatherapy and healing salts

One of the best ways to wind down after a hard day is an a bathtub full of relaxing lavender oil and Himalayan healing salts. Or sitting in a comfortable chair, eyes closed and breathing deeply the aroma of sandalwood or mandarin. By gifting these essential oils and salts, you help the receiver  de-stress from their day and get ready for a restful night’s sleep.

#6. Schedule a day outside just for them

This is similar to the homemade gift certificates idea but in this case, you’re setting aside at least one full day during the holidays to spend with your loved ones doing something fun outside. Perhaps it will be going skiing with the kids or snowshoeing with friends or a sleigh ride with entire family. The best gift is the gift of our time and by spending it outdoors, everyone wins.

#7. A good book

There are so many fantastic novels out there that are both entertaining and inspirational. Take Paulo Cohelo’s “The Alchemist” for example or “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce. Or even “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss for the children in your life. So called “self-help books” don’t have to be boring dialogues about what to do when; they can be uplifting tales of characters who experience challenges and in so doing, change their lives for the better.

#8. Socks

This may seem an odd gift for this type of list but we’re not talking about black dress socks or bundles of cheap tube socks from a big box store. Rather, we’re suggesting you gift one pair (or a few pairs) of excellent quality athletic socks that breathe, support and just might encourage the receiver to go out for a walk with you. In our experience, Darn Tough in Vermont make some of the best socks on earth. (They’re guaranteed for life!)

#9. A One-Week Permission Slip

One of the things we hear most from our clients is that it’s so hard for them to take a week or two away from their busy lives in order to reboot their vitality. This is where you can come in: you can either hand-write a coupon or just tell your loved one that it’s okay for them to take time away in order to take care of their own health – you offer to look after things while they’re away and not to worry and they, in turn, can come and join us at Mountain Trek where they’ll reignite their vitality and return back to you a reenergized person. Really, it’s a gift for you both!

For more gift ideas, check our Mountain Trek’s holiday gift guide for yourself and six gifts to support a healthy lifestyle.

Tips for Relieving Holiday Stress

Tips for Relieving Holiday Stress

This time of year can be difficult for people’s stress levels, given the number of potential stressors out there: planning family dinners, buying the right gifts and attending numerous parties all contribute to a busy and stressful time. However, there are easy ways to relieve that stress as outlined below.

#1. Digital Detox

Make a plan to detox from your digital devices for a set time each day. Even if it’s just a matter of turning off your TV, phone and computer at 9pm each night the result will be less distraction, better sleep and less stress.

#2. Massage

Enjoy an evening massage regularly. It will help relieve sore muscles, release toxins and, ultimately, relax you. Plus it’s something to look forward to after your busy days.

#3. Exercise

Even just a little. Follow these tips to help beat sedentarism and remember that in order to keep your metabolism up, your weight down, and your stress levels low, your body has to move for at least 40 minutes a day, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block.

#4. Go for a soak

Whether it’s a hot spring, hot tub, or your tub at home, a good, long soak in warm water invigorates circulation and, ultimately relaxes you.

#5. Eat Well

We know this can be difficult around the holidays what with the plethora of sweets, alcohol and processed food available, but eating healthy foods puts your body in a better state of equilibrium. That’s not to say we don’t encourage the occasional treat, but remember to do so in moderation. At the very least remember to drink lots of water a day. That will help flush toxins from your body.

#6. Be With Friends

Spend time with friends and loved ones who are relaxing to be with. Often we hear from our clients that the holidays are stressful because they’re obligated to hang out with family members who cause them stress. If this sounds familiar, then be sure to book equal amounts of time with individuals who help you to feel the opposite of stressed. Have to do dinner with the in-laws who are regularly argumentative? Then book a breakfast date with a friend who will listen and laugh as you debrief about it all.

#7. Don’t be so hard on yourself

So what if the turkey burned or the place settings aren’t perfect or you didn’t have time to get all the gifts on your list? Your family and friends love you and the most important thing for them is to know that you’re happy. They do not want you to feel overwhelmed at their expense. Breathe deep. Think of the ones you love. Remember how lucky you are. Breathe some more. Relax.

#8. Book a stay with Mountain Trek

Our Winter Retreat program from Dec 27-Jan 3 exists to allow people a chance to escape their busy lives and stay in a beautiful mountain lodge with every amenity from hot tub to infrared sauna, and to enjoy having a professional chef do all the cooking. Imagine escaping everything this holiday and curling up beside a warm fire with a good book while the snow falls gently outside. Talk about stress relieving!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Stress Less on Your Business Trip

How to stay health on business travel
Does your career require you to travel?  Whether you love or hate it, it doesn’t have be a dreaded journey of indigestion, poor sleep, stress and anxiety.

Is it possible to adopt a “spa retreat” state of mind along the way, so your cortisol isn’t sky high?  With a bit of planning and intention, there are things you can do to stay more relaxed and calm amidst the hectic pace.

Physical and Psychological Management of Stress on the Road

  • Stretch and/or Massage – release those tight muscles with a stretch. Massage increases the “feel good” hormone oxytocin by 30% and lowers the “stress” hormone cortisol. Hop on the 15 minute chair massage at the airport, or have a quick visit to the local spa.
  • Support your body – maintain your energy levels and immune system with nutritional supplements, especially with B vitamins.
  • Eat well – bring healthy snacks from home, such as protein or super greens powder for smoothies on the run. At restaurants, choose salads and slow burning complex carbohydrates, which will sustain you better than a muffin, and will keep your blood sugar levels normal.
  • Exercise – bring workout or walking clothes; it will burn off stress, raise serotonin and endorphin levels, and help you sleep.
  • Hydrate – drink plenty as dehydration hits quickly on planes and in stuffy offices, leading to fatigue and foggy thinking. Take a water bottle with you everywhere.
  • Sleep – bow out on the 10:00pm cocktail and honor your body’s need to rest.  Have a bath, bring earplugs and a good book to help you doze off.
  • Meditate – calm racing negative thoughts and visualize positive outcomes.
  • Listen – travel with your iPod or MP3 and fill it with relaxing music
  • Breathe – practice mindful, deep belly breathing
  • Go with the flow – don’t worry about circumstances you have no control over
  • Bring astress ball” – squeeze it to release anxiety
  • Practice gratitude – be grateful for all the gifts in your life; it will lift your mood and shift your perspective.

Enjoy your next business trip!


Why Reducing Stress Helps Shed Stubborn Pounds


Unless you’re a Zen Monk in a monastery, stress is in your life, like it or not.  It’s said that a little stress is healthy, but chronic stress can sneak up on us in today’s hectic world.  Besides other health hazards it creates, did you know that chronic stress can prevent you from losing weight?

Stress is a natural reaction to change.  We are genetically hard-wired to avoid stressors that could be life-threatening.  This “survival response” is healthy when activated in rare and acute situations, but is damaging to a whole variety of bodily functions when triggered on an ongoing basis.

The Cortisol Connection to Weight Gain

In our Program, we help Guests learn about the link between stress, Cortisol, and weight gain.  The primary stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, Cortisol increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes.  It is involved in the regulation of metabolizing glucose, blood sugar maintenance, regulation of blood pressure and the inflammatory response.

Secreted during the fight-or-flight response, higher or prolonged levels of Cortisol in the bloodstream can wreak havoc on the metabolism and the body’s ability to burn fat.  As long as Cortisol levels are raised, metabolism slows down.

You can take steps now to lower the stress in your life before a health crisis forces you to.  With stress management techniques and attending to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs, you can help normalize your body’s natural metabolic rate.

Stress Management Tips

Consider the following that can minimize the drain that un-checked stressors can have on your energy bank:

  1. Exercise – moving your body will burn off excess stress, clear your head, and raise the “feel good” endorphins and serotonin levels.
  2. Clear the “clutter” – in your workspace, home environment, and negative people in your life.
  3. Create space and time for solace, peace, reflection, and introspection.
  4. Make space and time for creative pursuits.
  5. Allow space and time to nurture supportive relationships.
  6. Add inspiration, play, beauty, and appreciation to all that you do.  These intentions bring meaning and joy to our lives.
  7. Eat healthfully and drink plenty of water to support your body’s needs.

Taking care of these aspects of your being will naturally increase the motivation to incorporate healthful changes for your body.  Lower your stress, and lower your weight!

Meditation: It’s Not Just About Sitting Still

Meditation isn’t about sitting cross-legged and staring off into space. At our health spa we use it as a tool to help drop the body into a state of deep rest or calm allowing for self-repair, alignment of hormone levels, and balance your metabolic state. Blood pressure normalizes, adrenal glands produce less cortisol, and the immune system functions better. The mind clears and creativity increases.

As a follow-up to the post Cortisol: The Stress Hormone, we want to offer some tips on the different kinds of meditation you can practice. If you recall, cortisol is created when our unconscious deems it necessary to fight, fly or freeze for survival. It’s also a hormone whose production increases aging in our bodies. By introducing periods of relaxation, we can prevent the harmful effects of cortisol and gain from its benefits.

Here are some helpful examples of ways to meditate:

Focused Meditation

Concentrate on an object or sound. Even the rhythm of your own breath. Stay conscious in the present moment, while letting the steady stream of thoughts in your mind fall away. And creating space and a state of an empty mind.

Activity Oriented Meditation

This is great for those who have a hard time sitting still. By engaging in a repetitive activity (like hiking)  we get into a “zone” of movement and feel a state of “flow” that is uninterrupted by conscious thought. It allows for one to be in the present, in our body, with the mind focused, rather than interrupted with thoughts of past or future doings.

Spiritual Meditation

Although not specific to any one religion, meditation has been used for Millennia as a space to receive guidance. By focusing on a question once the mind is quiet, we can receive inner guidance or access our own true wisdom. Some practitioners believe that prayer is speaking to God, or the Divine, while meditation is listening.

No matter which technique, know that repetition brings ease and improvements just like weight lifting. A good way to begin is to think of yourself as the observer of your thoughts and notice what the narrative voice in your head says without engaging in the content. As thoughts materialize (which they naturally do all the time), do your best to let them go and come back to concentrating, focusing, or witnessing. Meditation is like taking your mind to the gym. The benefits to health are increased vitality, reduced stress levels, and peace of mind.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia and featuring daily sunrise yoga and night-time restorative yoga, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Ahhh…Nothing Like a Soak in the Hot Springs …

After a big day outside hiking, I experienced last Saturday what our guests enjoy every Monday night, a soak in the famous Ainsworth Hot Springs (only 5 minutes from the lodge). Not that I hadn’t been there before, just not recently. I had kayaked for a few days with my fellow guide Helene. Since the Hot Springs were on the drive home, we decided to treat ourselves with a well deserved soak. Wow. It was fantastic! Sitting in the hot pool, going through the caves, then having a few cold plunges, my body felt completely re-vitalized.  No wonder some of our guests ask to be dropped off at the Hot Springs on the way back from hiking. Healing benefits aside (it detoxes the body by increasing blood flow which also increases the flow of oxygen rich blood to tired muscles, and other reputed healing benefits), it just felt awesome!  Of course, with the Purcell Mountains and Kootenay Lake as the backdrop, how much better can it get? You can be sure that they’ll be seeing me there a little more often.

For other healing benefits of hot springs, have a look at the link.

Take Your Mind to the Gym

Take your brain to the gym

Living a healthy and happy centered life doesn’t happen without reinforcing our beliefs. Take your mind to the gym by exercising the power of positive thinking. Here’s a simple exercise. Maybe you’ve tried it before. Maybe you’ve wondered if you should try it. Give it a try. We feel pretty confident about this method. Write a few inspirational quotes on sticky notes and place them on your bathroom mirror or car dashboard or around your computer monitor or office desk. Read these messages out loud to anchor them into both the Conscious and Unconscious parts of your Brain.

Related Article: What is Positive Psychology?

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

For endurance trainingtry repeating the quotes; start with 2 sets of 15 repetitions, for 1 week.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

The Power of Nature

I’ve discovered the reason Mountain Trek’s program is so successful.

I know it’s never just one thing that makes anything successful; the combination of big hiking days working at near your cardio max, delicious healthy meals, detox practices… those sorts of things of course, are major contributors why our guests leave pounds lighter and more energized. What I did discover from my experience as a facilitator at Mountain Trek’s satellite program at Rancho La Puerta (which just finished last week), was the power of nature. Being outside in nature completely recalibrates and rebalances us. It simply makes us feel better in all arenas of life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

It’s funny, I’ve always known this, being an avid hiker most of my life and of course, being a hiking guide at MT, but I experienced this healing aspect of nature more profoundly at Rancho La Puerta, as much heaviness was weighing on me (life stuff) when I went there. And now, I come back home, lighter in so many ways, a different attitude towards that which still is present in my life. I feel balanced and I attribute this to being immersed in nature.

There’s branch in psychology called “ecopsychology” which researches what I just experienced, the effects of being in wilderness on a person’s well being. It makes sense, yet, how many of us get so caught in work we forget to get outside, to feel nature touch us in those ways nature only can, to feel and hear the silence it provides us. It’s sublime, yet, oh so powerful.

I know now why Mountain Trek works and why guests show up, it might be for weight loss, or gaining more fitness, but with those subtle forces at work, one can’t help but go home feeling lighter in being. For that I am grateful.

Ideas for the New Year

New Year - New You

Instead of setting resolutions this year, why not think of the New Year as an opportunity to add some new ideas into your lifestyle. For instant stress release try:

  • Have a cup of tea. Perhaps the English had it right taking an afternoon break for tea. According to a study conducted at University College London, tea drinking has been show to lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol after a stressful event.
  • Listen to classical music. This helps produce the “calm and connect” hormone, oxytocin.

Some nutrition ideas might be:

  • Eat high fiber food (vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds) – not only are they highly nutritious but because fiber creates the sensation of being full, they will help you stay lean. Fiber is also a great boon to help the body rid itself of toxins. All the more reason to load up on fiber rich foods.
  • Drink wine it after dinner if you are going to have it. Research has shown alcohol consumed before eating increases the chances of eating more food as alcohol not only whets your appetite but also makes food more tasty.

Fitness quickies:

  • See a door, do a stretch – raise your arms up and grab the top of the door frame and lean forward as far as you can, hold for 30 seconds. Your shoulders will love you.
  • Mix up your exercise regime – not only will it help you stay motivated, but it will help you burn more calories and prevent injury. The body responds to variety.

By taking care of the three pillars of vitality – stress management, good nutrition, and fitness, weight loss is a natural bonus.


Self Soothing to Replace Stress Eating

Self soothing with food

Emotional Eating is a common stress release, or reward choice, for most of us. Using food as a way to work through our feelings, we lower the intensity, or even numb uncomfortable emotions by chewing, grazing, searching, tasting, craving, overeating or even binging. Unfortunately, eating can lead to guilt or shame when we do it for soothing rather than to stop hunger. In Susan Albers book “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food”, the author of Eating Mindfully, offers 5 other choices to replace stress eating:

  1. Mindful Meditation Techniques
  2. Changing Thoughts (journalling, affirmations, etc)
  3. Soothing Sensations to Calm and Relax the Body (baths, yoga, massage, etc)
  4. Soothing with Distractions (music, shopping, creativity, etc)
  5. Social Soothing (buddy system, furry friends, safe venting, etc)

Susan’s practical alternatives to stress eating are beneficial to all of us who anesthetize our difficult emotions with oral pleasures. Her crux, is to practice “Radical Acceptance”…the complete focusing on “what is” rather than on how we wish things should be…feeling our feelings and accepting them for what they are. Susan offers,”Emotional eating is the opposite of acceptance…it involves warding off feeling bad with comfort eating because we don’t accept the way we feel.” Acceptance doesn’t equal condonance, it just allows more grace to be with what is…and the spaciousness to explore our unmet needs. Check out Susan’s Book if any of these thoughts resonate for you.