Holidays are often filled with joy and fun, but also stress. For many people, holidays create a long list of obligations and interrupt comfortable routines. For some, holidays bring up hard memories or accentuate feelings of loneliness.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information found that cardiac related emergency visits increase between December 25 and January 7. The Journal of the American Medical Association has linked holiday stress and behavior changes to weakened immune systems and increased risks of heart attacks, digestive disorders, depression, insomnia and autoimmune disease.
“As with most hospitals, we see more deaths in the wintertime. Research has proven that stress weakens the immune system,” said Renee Weakley, FNP-C at Prowers Medical Center Clinic. “The effects of chronic or acute stress during the holidays may be significant in some people.”
A medical study by Yale University states that stress can manifest as muscle aches, headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, anger, forgetfulness, impatience and restlessness. If you feel any of these with the holidays, take them as reminders to slow down and take a deep breath.
Here are some tips that will help you lower stress this holiday season:
Do what brings you joy and meaning
Your holiday doesn’t have to be a Norman Rockwell painting of perfection. You don’t have to show up for every event offered or impress with your creative gifts. Instead, pick a few meaningful traditions and events and carry them out well. Attend those that feed your interest and focus on being with people you truly care about and enjoy.
“For many, the holidays are about spending time with family. Connecting with family is more important than the gifts you receive or the events that you throw or attend. Keep the focus on being with the people that you care about,” Weakley said.
Spending more than you can afford on gifts is stressful. You don’t have to break the bank to create great holiday gifts for the kids. Remember, they don’t need everything on their list to have a wonderful holiday.
“Decide on a holiday spending budget before you start shopping. That way you will be more apt to stick to your budget, which limits the stress that can come with overspending,” Weakley added.
Stick to your healthy habits
It’s tempting to see the holidays as a free-for-all. Yet overindulgence of sweets and alcohol and skipping your usual physical activities will leave you feeling stressed, fatigued and out-of-sorts. As best you can, maintain your physical activity routines.
Exercising helps you kick out endorphins, which helps reduce stress and your reaction to stress. Keep to your exercise routine.
“Try yoga and meditation. Also, stick to your sleep schedule, eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, and limit alcoholic drinks to no more than two in a 24 hour period,” Weakley suggested.
Find your calm
The best way to avoid stress and depression over the holidays is to stay aware and watchful. If you feel stressed, or down over the death of a loved one, acknowledge your feelings and find a safe person and place to express it. Or go for a long walk, read a book, take a nap, or anything else that calms you. If you feel pulled this way and that, thoughtfully decide what events you really want to attend, and decline the others. In other words, listen to your needs and take care of yourself.
If you are feeling terribly overwhelmed or anxious, Southeast Health Group provides 24-hour, seven-day-a-week behavioral health crisis intervention and assessment by calling 1-800-511-5446.
The Prowers Medical Center Clinic is currently accepting new patients, and can be reached at (719) 336-6767. Please note that Prowers Medical Center Clinic offices will be closed on Thanksgiving for the holiday. The emergency room is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet your needs.