Most of us look forward to the holidays as joyful time, spent celebrating with friends and family. But all too often, we allow ourselves to become stressed out - trying to balance the family gatherings, the countless parties, and the endless shopping. If not managed well, all of this stress can have a negative effect on our health and well-being.
Charlotte Libov, of WebMD The Magazine, suggests that lowering stress levels during the holidays can have great benefits for individuals. Doing so may reduce your risk of:
Heart disease, including heart attacks.
Skin conditions, including psoriasis and shingles.
Digestive disorder flare-ups, such as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
Immune disorders, including flare-ups of multiple sclerosis and lupus.
Anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Worsening pain if you already have a pain disorder, such as arthritis, back pain and muscle spasms.
There are many strategies you can use to manage the stress during the holiday season. Healthwise Incorporated has developed guidelines to lower stress in both preparing for the holidays and the stress occurring during the holidays.
Preparing for the holidays
Get organized: Make lists or use an appointment book to keep track of tasks to do and events to attend.
Know your spending limit: Set a budget and don't spend more than you've planned. Don't buy gifts that you'll spend the rest of the year trying to pay off.
Share the tasks: You don't have to do everything yourself. Share your "to do" list with others. Spend time with friends and family while you share tasks like decorating, wrapping gifts and preparing the holiday meal.
Learn to say no: It's OK to say "no" to some events that aren't important to you. This will give you more time to say "yes" to events that you do want to attend.
Be realistic: Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday for your family. Focus instead on the traditions that make holidays special for you. Remember that just because it's a holiday, family problems don't go away. If you have a hard time being around your relatives, it's okay to set limits on your time at events and visits.
During the holidays
You may not be able to avoid stressful situations during the holidays. But you can plan to respond to them in a healthy way.
Take breaks from group activities: Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Spend a little time by yourself if you can. Meditate, or do some relaxation breathing. Go for a short walk.
Keep a regular sleep, meal and exercise schedule: Taking care of yourself will help you deal with stressful situations during the holidays.
Limit your alcohol intake.
Get support if you need it: Holidays can sometimes trigger depression. They can be especially hard if you are already dealing with the death of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship. If you feel that you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it.
For more information on managing stress, contact your health care provider or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120.
People can e-mail HealthLink Littauer at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit its website at www.nlh.org, or visit its wellness center at 213 Harrison St. Ext. in Johnstown, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.