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How to manage holiday stress

Gabrelle Taylor | December 21, 2017

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, packed with family gatherings, office parties and warm apple cider. But for some, the holiday season ushers in stress, anxiety and even depression. Between end-of-year assignments at work and family chaos at home, we understand how this season can be stressful.

It’s normal to experience stress sometimes, especially around the holidays when family travels, stretched finances and holiday entertaining are happening all at once. However, when you experience significant amounts of stress over long periods of time (also known as chronic stress), it can take a toll on your physical health.

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to viruses like the common cold and the flu. It also can affect your digestive and urinary systems. While there is not a proven, direct relationship between stress and cancer, your risk of cancer can increase if you adopt unhealthy behaviors during stressful periods such as smoking, overeating or drinking alcohol in excess.

Don’t let stress ruin your holidays! Use these practical tips to get you through this busy season:

Acknowledge your emotions. Feelings of grief, loneliness and sadness are common around this time of year. Don’t ignore what you’re experiencing. Try to pinpoint what is triggering these emotions and address it directly.

Prioritize self-care. Yes, your “to-do” list seems never-ending right now, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Continue being physically active and striving for a diet full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Get enough sleep. Studies also show daily meditation or mindfulness exercises help alleviate stress. In between holiday shopping trips, pause for five minutes and focus on your breathing.

Plan ahead. Prevent any last-minute scrambling by assigning tasks (cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc.) to certain days and making shopping lists for your trips. Gather available friends and family to help with prep work and clean-up for holiday parties.

Seek professional help if needed. Your mental health is important. Mental illnesses such as seasonal affect disorder (SAD) and clinical depression are difficult to manage on your own. If your persistent stress and anxiety isn’t changing despite your best efforts to address it, please talk to your health care professional.

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