Stress can trigger a multitude of concerning symptoms at any time of year. But during the holidays, we’re all faced with busier schedules, long lines, crowds, and numerous pressures. It’s no wonder many people report a higher incidence of stress-related symptoms during the holiday season.
Stress will obviously affect your emotional health, and can lead to symptoms like anxiety or depression. But because emotional well-being impacts our overall health, very real physical symptoms can emerge during times of stress as well.
For example, we know that stress contributes to hypertension (high blood pressure) and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It can also weaken the immune system, leading to increased incidence of colds, upper respiratory infections, flu, and stomach bugs.
You might also notice increased heartburn, indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea during the holidays. And of course, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and general aches and pains are common side effects of stress.
You definitely don’t want to face these issues during an already busy time of the year, so what can you do to lower stress? Try a few of these suggestions until you find what works best for you:
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule
- Eat nutritious foods and limit holiday “treats” (especially sugar)
- Continue a regular exercise routine
- Get outdoors for fresh air and sunlight daily
- Eat a serving of citrus fruit daily
- Schedule a massage
- Try acupressure
- Abandon old customs that bring you more stress than joy
- Listen to relaxing music
- Engage in a craft or art activity that feels soothing
- Limit your social engagements, if you feel overscheduled
- Spend time with a cat or dog; visit an animal shelter if you don’t have pets
- Laugh; watch your favorite sitcom or comedian
- Ask your doctor or nutritionist about supplements that might help you
- See a therapist or counselor if you notice signs of depression
It’s okay to ask for help when you need it. If stress is causing you to feel depressed, or if you’re experiencing physical symptoms, talk to your loved ones or doctor about how you’re feeling. With a few changes to your routine or obligations, you can banish stress and invite more holiday joy into your life.