Managing Holiday Stress

Holiday parties, family gatherings, decorating, baking shopping, gift lists, card lists…While the holiday season can be a festive time to enjoy the company of family and friends, it can also bring a great deal of extra stress, financial pressures, and fewer opportunities to relax. It’s easy to let an exercise schedule to fall by the wayside. Healthy eating and getting enough sleep can be a challenge. But making your physical, mental, and financial health a priority during this time of year is the key to managing stress.

During times of stress, the body releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and cause a spike in blood pressure.  Once the stressful event is over, blood pressure returns to normal.  However, chronic stress and the continual release of these “fight or flight” hormones can damage the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys over time. 

Some people deal with stress by overeating, smoking, or drinking too much.  These behaviors, along with poor sleep and lack of exercise, may also raise the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. 

Managing stress can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and improve health in general.  A healthy lifestyle contributes to better emotional and physical well-being.  Ways to deal with stress during the holiday season include:

  • Exercising on a regular basis, ideally at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Eating healthy foods and limiting alcohol intake.
  • Practicing meditation, yoga, and deep breathing.
  • Setting priorities and simplifying your schedule.