The holidays are upon us. Are you joyous and bright? Or would “a heaping pile of stress” be a more accurate description? If you answered the latter, you’re not alone. The frenzy of the holiday season can amplify the everyday stressors we face, such as work, traffic, family obligations, being a caregiver, and the economy.
Stress is your body’s natural response to demand or pressure. While periodic stress is normal and can be good for you—helping you to act quickly, overcome challenges, and boost your immunity—ongoing stress can lead to a number of health problems.
Stress-related spikes in blood pressure may be damaging to blood vessels if they occur too often and can lead to long-term high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Ongoing stress has also been linked to lowered immunity and physical, mental, or emotional symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, stomach problems, anxiety, depression, irritability, crying spells, forgetfulness, poor concentration, and low productivity.
The way you handle the inevitable holiday and everyday stressors can make all the difference in your overall health. These helpful tips from National Foundation for Cancer Research may be a good place to start:
- Plan ahead. Stress can build up if you procrastinate your “To Do List.” Try to accomplish small tasks each day leading up to the holiday. Buying gifts, decorating, and cooking can be much more stressful if done last-minute.
- Know your limits. Being overwhelmed with events during the holiday season can impede your daily responsibilities. Be sure to practice saying “no” and avoid overcommitting. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be sure to get a healthy amount of rest.
- Try to eat nutritious foods and limit sweets during the holiday season. As tempting as it may be, consuming large amounts of unhealthy foods can contribute to decreased energy levels, not to mention feelings of guilt. Try to choose alternative options like whole grains, fruits and vegetables filled with cancer-fighting antioxidants, and lean meats. Still enjoy desserts (it is the holidays, after all), but keep it in moderation.
- Let things go. Nothing’s going to be perfect. Relax and enjoy time with family, even if a pie burns or someone is disappointed with his (or her) gift. Reconcile the situation, move on, and embrace the holiday cheer!
- Exercise. Exercise is not only a great way to stay fit and reduce your risk of getting cancer, but it increases your endorphin levels and helps keep you stress-free.
Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and easy holiday season!