Many of us see stress as unavoidable and simply part of working, being a spouse, a parent; as part of being human. The holidays can aggravate everyday stress. Our bodies are equipped to deal with some stress; however, when you experience prolonged states of stress, it can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health.
Studies have found that almost half of all adults suffer from stress-related health issues. Unrelieved stress can contribute to headaches, high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, chest pain, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The holiday rush can add to our stress and often requires a little extra mental preparation.
The holidays are a great time to learn to manage our own expectations. Your family’s celebration does not have to be perfect, and you don’t have to make it feel exactly like years past. You put pressure on yourself to make things blissful for everyone else, but what about your mental and physical health? You can keep stress at healthy levels by trying some of these tips:
Walk it off: Taking a walk can help lower stress hormones by increasing your endorphins. Even walking for 10 minutes can help you shed stress. If you can, stroll through a park, as natural sunlight boosts your mood, and nature has been shown to help reduce stress and allow for relaxed reflection.
Take a deep breath: Deep breathing tricks your body into feeling like it is relaxed and increases your oxygen levels, helping you shed tension and stress.
Give yourself a break: Take some time away from your work, including your email and work phone. Research has shown that continuous computer usage has been linked to depression, loss of sleep, and high levels of stress – any time of the year. Avoid feeling guilty about balancing work and family and the extra stress of trying to please two masters. It’s okay to let the phone go to voice mail.
Don’t be so hard on yourself: Negative thoughts in reaction to a stressor can actually increase stress, but thinking positively can help calm you down and get you through each challenge. Pat yourself in the back for cleaning and decorating the house, and let someone help you in the kitchen, rather than do everything yourself.
Grab a snack: Feeling hungry puts stress on the brain, so try taking a few minutes for a small, healthy snack – like nuts or a piece of fruit – to fill you up and help you de-stress without overeating at the family gathering. Pack a few snacks ahead of time, so you’re not tempted to reach for the first piece of candy that’s offered.
Just stop and listen: Listening to music you love immediately boosts your dopamine levels, giving you an instant pick-me-up. Classical music is particularly relaxing; it has been proven to lessen stress hormone levels and lower blood pressure and heart rates.
Get creative: The repetitive motions involved in several crafts, like knitting and jewelry making, can be soothing and help you get rid of stress. Taking time for any creative activities you enjoy can help you relax and get your mind away from your stressors.
You can increase your resistance to stress by improving your physical health. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider (Link to Find a Doctor) to discuss your overall health and wellbeing. The better you feel, the more equipped you will be to handle life’s curveballs – or holiday ornaments.