Did you know that the holidays tend to be one of the major seasons for getting sick?
The reasons for this are many.
While many people blame it on the colder weather, the truth is that during the holiday season
we tend to forget about taking care of ourselves.
Instead we drink a bit too much, eat too many canapés, chips, dips, candy and cookies, and we do, because the weather is often less than perfect, tend to stay inside more. Inside, where the germs are flying around, everyone is shaking hands and no one is opening a window to banish the germs. Additionally, the holidays add a significant amount of stress to our already crazy lives and stress does weaken our immune system, which means yep, you guessed it, we get sick.
What causes holiday stress?
The holidays are chock full of expectations and pressures. You have your own personal expectations like a happy holiday for your children and family. If you have to travel to visit family or friends during the holidays then you have the stressors of travel. Not to mention the inherent stress of visiting with family, yours and your extended. I should note here that not all stress is bad stress. Yes, visiting with family can be fantastic and fun and you may certainly look forward to it every year, however it still places a stress on your body that you may not be aware of.
There is, of course, the financial stress of the holidays. Not everyone can afford their child’s entire wish list, the diamond earrings or Rolex watch they want to buy their spouse, nor can they contribute to the abundance of charities that they want to during the holidays.
What about stress related to all of those social obligations around the holidays? Just how many hands can you shake before your smile begins to fade and you just want to go home and curl up on the couch?
What does all this stress do to your body?
Chronic stress can raises your cortisol levels and weaken your immune system. This instantly makes you more susceptible to colds and the flu not to mention more serious problems like heart disease and diabetes. Stress also affects our ability to get a good night’s sleep which is extremely important for our body’s ability to regenerate and stay strong.
Unfortunately, when we’re dealing with holiday stress we also tend to make unhealthy decisions. We don’t get as much sleep as we should, we don’t exercises, and we don’t eat the things that we should. All those cookies, dips, chips, and yummy drinks become more than an occasional indulgence; they can become a habit during the holidays – a habit that makes us sick.
So how do you combat all the stress?
The easiest thing to do is to use stress management tools and techniques during the holidays. Tools like yoga, meditation, and journaling are proven to reduce stress. However those techniques may not be fore everyone. Consider taking a daily walk outside. Getting a bit of fresh air, no matter what the weather, is an excellent way to center yourself and release some of the stress.
If getting outside is just not possible, say you live in Alaska and winter means 70 degrees below zero, then join a gym and walk on a treadmill or around a track every day. Exercise is critical to keeping your body, and your immune system strong, and it has been proven that exercise reduces stress.
1. Get regular sleep
Stress can send us to bed for days if we let it. It’s a safe place where we can avoid all of the stress that is weighing us down. Set a regular sleep schedule and stick to it. Doctors tell us that we need 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Plan for that. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every night. It will significantly improve your body’s ability to handle stress.
2. To help ease stress, ask your friends and family for help
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Involve your family in completing household chores including meal preparation.
3. Schedule activities
Planning ahead eliminates much of the stress surrounding the holiday occasions. When something is on your calendar your life is much more predictable and structured.
4. Don’t be afraid to say “No”
You don’t have to go to every celebration. You don’t have to participate in every holiday activity in your community. You don’t have to take every drink or appetizer offered to you. Think about whether you really want to do something before you say yes. If you can’t say no or are uncomfortable saying no, then say maybe.
5. Plan time off for yourself
Planning time off for yourself is important all through the year but it is especially important during the holiday season when activities, commitments, and responsibilities can overwhelm. Planning time off for yourself doesn’t have to mean a weekend trip to Fiji, though if it does then I’m envious! Time off can mean taking a Sat afternoon to read a good book in front of the fireplace or if you live in my home time off means locking the bathroom door and taking a really long bubble bath and reading the latest magazines. That’s my little stress buster – what’s yours?
6. Shop online
Shopping stresses me out. I have to admit it. Too many people, not enough sales people willing to help and everything seems so expensive. I’ve eliminated the stress by shopping online. I set a budget for each family member, get their lists ahead of time, and one evening near the beginning of December I sit down at the computer and go shopping. The great thing is that everyone’s presents arrive on my porch – many of them already wrapped and ready to go under the Christmas tree. I realize that for many, holiday shopping is a tradition they’re not willing to get rid of, just remember to weigh the pros and cons. If it stresses you out too much, get rid of it!
This can work for holiday cooking too. Not everyone wants to or has time to cook full holiday meals for their gatherings. Thank goodness many markets, standard and organic, now offer full holiday meal catering!
7. Change your habits
If you find that a significant amount of your stress comes from a specific area, assess what you can do to change the situation. For example some people have a tremendous amount of stress around holiday travel. A simple solution would be to decide to stay at home this holiday. Yes, some people may be disappointed however it may be the best decision for you and your family and you may find that they’re willing to travel to see you this holiday season.
8. Have fun!
Laughter is the greatest stress reducer on the planet and the holidays are full of opportunities to laugh. Spend time with friends that make you feel good. Plan a romantic date with your spouse or partner, or take your children out for a day of fun. Children are always good for a laugh. When in doubt, rent your favorite comedy, sit back and enjoy yourself.
Life is too short to let a little bit of stress ruin your holidays.
Use some of these tips to lighten your load and reduce your stress.
You deserve a healthy, happy holiday!
Now it’s your turn…
How do you lower your stress levels during the holiday?
Share you experiences, tips and suggestions with us.