December 21, 2018

4 Sources of Holiday Stress

“During the holidays, people have to deal with not only the stress of everyday lives, but also many additional concerns,” said Clark Lester, MD, a psychiatrist at Baptist Health Corbin. “Many of us don’t realize the physical impact the holidays can have.”

There are numerous well-known sources of holiday stress – too much work, too many calories, too many guests, too many miles to travel, too little money. Identifying when you feel run down or overwhelmed, or even anxious is crucial for effective stress management. When you acknowledge or figure out what your stressors are, you can then take the necessary steps to reduce and avoid them. Learn how to better manage holiday stressors with these six tips from Baptist Health.

6 Holiday Stressors & Tips For Managing Them

  1. Skimping on sleep. Who can sleep when there’s so much to do! If you have this mentality, you won’t perform at your peak and your stress level will continue to build. 
    • Tip: It can be tough to do during the holidays, but having a regular sleep schedule and going to bed at the same time every night can be really beneficial. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
    • Other sleep tips include:
      • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
      • Getting plenty of exercise
      • Turning the thermostat down for a comfortable night’s rest
      • Turning off the TV or Christmas lights to encourage melatonin production
  2. Missing meals. If you’re skipping meals you’re going to be low on energy. And without energy, you can’t tackle your to-do list nearly as effectively. 
    • Tip: No matter how busy you are, keep your diet well-balanced with a combination of healthy whole grains, fruits and vegetables – such as oatmeal with nut butter for breakfast, fruit and a one-ounce cheese serving for a snack, an avocado and turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread for lunch, and fish with a sweet potato for dinner.
  3. Staying away from the sunshine. The cold weather may make you want to be inside, but you need to find time to get outside during the day. It’s vital to get some fresh air and to see the sun – which is a major source of vitamin D (which helps regulate your mood).
    • Tip: Go for a quick walk around your neighborhood.
  4. Feuding with your family. Not only do you need to take a break and get outside, but during the holidays you may also need to take a break from your family and friends – that might be increasing your stress level.
    • Tip: Set aside 15 minutes each day of alone time. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  5. Financial concerns. Prolonged stress from debt can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to rise, increasing your risk of heart problems and stroke.
    • Tip: Try to put money aside throughout the year. Ask friends or family members to do a name draw – instead of buying a gift for everyone, each person chooses a name and buys that person a gift. Also, consider giving gifts of time or service, like a night of baby sitting so your new-parent friend can have a date night.
  6. Overindulging in rich and sugary holiday foods. Extreme blood-sugar fluctuations can lead to irritability, tiredness and even more sugar cravings.
    • Tip: The holidays are infamous as a time when we’re tempted by every treat imaginable – most of them high-fat, high sugar or both. The key here is balance. Indulge in small quantities of the sweet stuff while making sure you’re also getting plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eat small meals throughout the day instead of fewer, larger meals. Incorporate at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity that increases your heart rate. Yes, it counts to walk around the mall at a hurried pace, scouting for gifts.

The holiday season can be stressful. There’s always so much to do and never enough time to do it all. By identifying your stressors and following these tips, you can take charge of managing your stress during the holidays.

Take Control of Stress

If you would like to learn more about stress management, reach out to a behavioral health provider at Baptist Health.

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