The holidays and stress often go hand in hand. But why does this joyous time of year take so much out of us? It could be shopping trips in crowded malls and stores, preparing for and hosting holiday guests, a busier-than-normal social calendar, more cooking, more baking, travel or all of the above. Everyone seems to be out and about, parking spaces are limited, traffic is heavier, and the to-do list is long.
So what can you do to help reduce your stress level and enjoy a calmer, more relaxing holiday season? Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne of WakeMed Physician Practices – Morrisville Primary Care offers some valuable information and helpful advice.
What is Stress?
Stress is your body’s normal physical response to managing conditions that occur outside of the norm. These could be good things, like the birth of a child, or bad things, like the loss of a job. When you are “stressed,” your adrenaline increases and your body is at a higher state of awareness. The negative impact occurs when your body experiences stress for an extended period of time. Extended periods of stress can lead to physical issues such as:
- Headaches or migraines
- Body aches
- Stomach pain/reflux
- Loss of sleep
- Memory loss
- Depression and/or anxiety
And even chronic medical conditions, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Stress can have an impact on every part of your life, including your relationships and your work. That’s why it is important to identify and manage your stress level.
How to Manage Stress
Know Your Limits: Always know when you are taking on too much. You may need to eliminate some commitments or activities from your calendar, or figure out some short-cuts that will make your life easier. For example, choose one or two holiday parties to attend and say no to the rest. Buy some pies for your family’s holiday dinner instead of making them from scratch, or ask all of your guests to bring a side dish.
Relaxation Techniques: Good relaxation techniques are also very important. Some people use mediation or yoga, others take time away for themselves – whether it be taking a nap or a quiet walk through the neighborhood.
Talk to Your Primary Care Physician: If the above mentioned behavioral changes don’t work, talk to your primary care doctor. Often, people with high stress levels experience anxiety, depression and/or an inability to sleep. You doctor can prescribe medications to help ease these symptoms and determine if counseling or therapy with a specialist could help you manage your symptoms further.
Take Care of Yourself: Especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember to get plenty of rest, limit your intake of fats and sweets, and exercise regularly. By taking time to take care of yourself, you will be in a better position to manage or avoid stress altogether.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season!