‘Tis The Season – To Manage Holiday Stress

By Dr. Scott Colasanti

The holiday season can unfortunately be a stressful time for many of us.

We are dealing with hectic schedules and the hustle and bustle of rushing from here to there, fighting the shopping crowds. We are attending many social gatherings and are consuming many more calories in the form of rich foods and alcoholic beverages. We are spending more and are under more financial stress. Not to mention that the days are colder and shorter, which has been shown to lead to more depression and illness. For some there is emotional stress of bad relationships. We are ‘pressurized’ by consumerism and into thinking that we have to fulfill these often unrealistic images of holidays and family life. Unfortunately for some of us, we are simply more alone or suffering some form of grief which can be magnified during this time of the year.  During the holiday season, the average person gains 4 to 5 lbs, all due to this stressful activity.

All of these factors add up and this type of holiday anxiety and stress can really take a toll on our overall health.

In a recent article about stress in the New York Times, Dr Tamar E. Chansky states:

… everyday stresses add up….

You’ll be much better able to deal with a serious, unexpected challenge if you lower your daily stress levels, she said. When worry is a constant, ‘it takes less to tip the scales to make you feel agitated or plagued by physical symptoms, even in minor situations’ she wrote in her book, Freeing Yourself From Anxiety.

So what can we do to reduce stress, especially during the holiday season? 

Here are a few basic tips:

Put things into perspective – There are often more serious reasons for stress and anxiety in life such as natural catastrophes or serious illness. Putting things into perspective can help us deal with the more ‘minor’ things that we can actually control. Don’t get caught up in consumerism. Realize what is most important. (The proverbial ‘stop and smell the flowers’ applies here!) Try to enjoy things as they are, not as you think they should be.

Exercise more – Interestingly, health clubs see an acute rise in their patronage after the holidays, with people trying to get rid of the extra holiday weight or trying to fulfil New Year’s resolutions. Why not exercise before and during instead?Besides its obvious benefits, exercise has been shown to be an excellent stress reliever in that it causes our bodies to produce more stress and anxiety relieving chemicals like endorphins and serotonin.

Budget your time – Realize that rushing around is not only stressful but results in less productivity. Prioritize. You may not be able to attend every obligation. Be prepared to say no. Be realistic about what you can do and make sure to take time out for yourself. Keep a balance in life and do things that make you happy.

Dealing with financial stress – Again, it’s beneficial to put things in perspective and not lose sight of the true meaning of the holiday season. Spending more than you can afford really does not make the experience any more special. It isn’t the size or the amount you spend on a gift that makes it special.It truly is the thought that counts.

Don’t overindulge – High fat, sugary foods and alcoholic beverages may not only result in unhealthy weight gain but also have a negative impact on our thoughts, moods, feelings, energy, and stress levels. This is especially true for alcohol. This is not to say that we should deny ourselves from these pleasures, but again putting some balance into the equation will go a long way.  Make better selections; eating more of the healthier choices and less of the unhealthy. Savour the good stuff and be more selective on the treats that you really enjoy. Try not to over eat. Give your stomach a chance to catch up with your brain. and wait ten minutes before you decide to go for seconds. Chances are that you may not want to by then.

Put aside differences – Remember that this is a time to celebrate and enjoy. Cherish those moments and make the best of it!

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