Thanksgiving is a wrap, Christmas is right around the corner and the New Year is stealing third. It’s no wonder that stress has become an accepted part of the holiday season. But stress can have serious health consequences, so here are some things to keep in mind this holiday season.
While you’re trying to pick the perfect package, stress is moving in to weaken your immune system. It does so by releasing cortisol into your body, which fights a protective enzyme called telomerase that works to protect your cells. With weakened cells, you’re prone to common stress-induced problems including headaches; skin conditions like as shingles and psoriasis; heart disease; depression and anxiety; and accelerated aging.
Handling stress means taking steps to bring more balance to your activities – and expectations. The holidays are an important time of the year for many, where expectations can run unrealistically high. If you are the planner for your household, here are some tips to help prevent the dreaded holiday stress:
- Set realistic goals. Don’t sweat every little detail and accept that things will never go exactly as planned. Don’t expect your holiday events to be something akin to a Norman Rockwell painting. Be realistic about your expectations – of yourself and others.
- Create a budget and stick to it. Determine how much you can afford to spend on gifts and celebrations before shopping. Buying happiness with an arsenal of gifts will likely just add to your holiday stress. Consider making gifts or offering a service – like a night of babysitting for young parents.
- Plan ahead. Outline a schedule that includes the necessary tasks like shopping, cooking and assembling gifts with lots of parts. This will help eliminate the need for last-minute preparations, and help you set aside time to enjoy the season.
- Just say NO (thank you)! Sometimes we feel obligated to accept every invitation that comes our way. Saying no is not always a bad thing, and it can help keep your sanity in check.
- Take a breather. Set aside time for yourself and choose an activity that helps you relax. Physical activity can be a great and healthy relaxer. Remember, if you’re not healthy, no one will have fun.
There are many measures you can take to decrease the risk of stress-related illnesses that often accompany the hectic holidays. So remember, put your health first so stress won’t come caroling this year.