Holidays aren’t always happy. Emotional stress – those high expectations, financial strain, maybe family tensions – can combine with physical stress from busy schedules, different eating habits, less daylight, and limited physical activity.
Long-term stress can affect mental health. Stress affects your physical health, too.
How can you stay healthy in times of stress?
First, recognize physical symptoms you may be experiencing:
• Muscle tension or pain
• High blood pressure and chest pain
• Weakened immune system
• High blood sugar
• Stomach upset, heartburn or acid reflux
• Acne and other skin problems
Now, take steps to reduce stress this season:
Get enough sleep. Sleep helps you think better, so you can handle problems as they come up, and recover from them faster. Aim for 7-9 hours each night.
Eat right. Healthy foods give you steady energy longer than the jolt you get from caffeine, alcohol, or holiday treats. Savor a spicy meal – it triggers endorphins, the natural chemical that spurs feelings of euphoria and well-being.
Get moving. Physical activity relaxes tense muscles and improves your mood – for up to 12 hours. Take a walk: the rhythm and repetition of walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, decreases anxiety and improves sleep.
Breathe deep. Breathing slowly helps lower your heart rate and relax your muscles.
Stretch. This relaxes your muscles and calms your mind.
Set limits. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to requests for your time and energy. We often go overboard during the holidays – shopping, cooking, sending cards, attending every event. This year, do less; enjoy more.
Remember, everyone feels stress at times, and not all stress is bad. If you feel overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from your health care provider.