It’s November and you know what that means? Welcome to the holiday season — that crazy time of the year filled with holiday parties and activities galore that begins right after Halloween, builds to Thanksgiving, and continues gaining momentum, through the end of the year.
While this season is meant to bring feelings of love and cheer, along with it comes the inevitable holiday stress for many of us. In fact, according a recent survey, 80% of us find that dealing with the holiday season is just as stressful as asking for a raise!
Causes of Holiday Stress
- Too Much on Your List to Do
The problem with the holiday season is that we often experience too much of a good thing. While stress itself is necessary for our survival and zest for life, too much stress has a negative impact on our health, both mentally and physically. Trying to do too many activities, even if they are fun activities, can create too much holiday stress and leave us feeling frazzled.
- Eating, Drinking and Spending Too Much
An overabundance of parties and gift-giving occasions lead many people to eat and drink excessively. The temptation to over indulge in shopping for gifts, rich desserts or alcohol can cause many people the lasting stress of dealing with consequences (debt, weight gain, memories of embarrassing behavior) that can continue long after the season is over.
- Too Much Family Togetherness
The holidays are a time when families tend to spend more time together. While this can be a wonderful thing, even the most close-knit families can overdose on togetherness, making it hard for family members to maintain a healthy balance between bonding and alone time and thus creating stress.
- Not Enough Togetherness
For those who don’t have family members to spend the holidays with, lowliness can be just as much of a problem. As the world seems to be gathering with family, those who rely more on friends for support can feel deserted and alone.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
An often unrecognized problem that comes with the holiday season is actually a by-product of the seasons changing from fall to winter. As daylight diminishes and the weather causes many of us to spend more time indoors, many people are affected to some degree by a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD. It’s a subtle, but very real condition that can cast a cloud over the whole season and be a source of stress and unhappiness during a time that people expect to feel just the opposite.
Tips for Managing the Holiday Stress
Here are some tips you can try to help to reduce and relieve stress during the holiday season:
Regular physical activity is one of the most important ways to keep stress away by clearing your head and lifting your spirits. Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins which are natural “feel good” chemicals in the body and leave you with a natural, happy feeling.
- Yoga and Stretching.
The slow movements and controlled postures of yoga improves muscle strength, flexibility, range of motion, balance, breathing, blood circulation and promotes mental focus, clarity and calmness. Stretching also reduces mental and physical stress, tension and anxiety, promotes good sleep, lowers blood pressure and slows down your heart rate.
- Laughter and Humor.
There is truth to the saying that laughter is the best medicine. Laughing reduces stress hormones like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol. It also benefits your immune system by increasing the number and activity of Natural Killer T-cells. These cells act as the first line of defense against viral attacks and damaged cells.
- High Nutrient Diet.
Eating well may be hard to maintain when you are stressed and busy, but maintaining good nutrition is one of the most important things you can do to manage your stress. You should eat foods rich in antioxidants (like vitamins A, C, E and lycopene), flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans and pumpkin seeds. You can also take a daily supplement that provides these vitamins and minerals.
Listening to your favorite music is a great method of reducing stress and relieving anxiety. You should select music that promotes tranquility. Pay attention to how you feel when you hear a particular song or genre of music, and keep listening to the ones that produce a relaxing effect.
Getting enough sound sleep has a profound impact on your stress levels, immune function and disease resistance. Continuous lack of sleep can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, forgetful, accident-prone, and have difficulty concentrating or coping with life’s daily aggravations. Long-term sleep loss can also result in heart disease, stroke, hypertension, depression, and anxiety. Sleep time is when your body and immune system do most of its repairs and rejuvenation. Strive to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Positive Thinking.
Optimism can counteract the negative impact stress, tension and anxiety has on your immune system and well-being. Often it is how you perceive things that determine if you get overwhelmed, both mentally and physically. Having a positive attitude, finding the good in what life throws your way and looking at the bright side of things enhances your ability to effectively manage stress.
The good thing about holiday stress is that it’s predictable. Unlike many other types of negative stress we encounter in life, we know when holiday stress will begin and end, and we can make plans to reduce and manage the amount of stress we experience and the negative impact it has on us.
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