Holiday Stress

The holidays -- a time of festivities, shopping, entertaining, religious observances, family gatherings, decorating and S-T-R-E-S-S!  Between the extra demand we place on ourselves and the expectations of the season, is it any wonder that most of us feel some stress during the holiday season? 

During stressful times, your body produces a variety of hormones and chemicals, including cortisol, an immune-suppressing hormone.  The more cortisol produced, the weaker your immune cells become and the more susceptible you are to illness.

A one-day stressor isn't going to make a big change in your risk of illness, but chronic stressors, such as those that come with the holiday season and last a few weeks, could dampen your immune response and create a risk of disease.  Common reactions to stress include migraine headaches, sleep disorders, backaches, skin rashes, fatigue, irritability, depression, worry, mood swings, chest pain, anxiety, upset stomach, ulcers, and high blood pressure.

By gaining a better understanding of the stress/disease connection, you can reduce your stress and, in turn, improve your health and well being.

Keeping Stress In Check
Plan ahead and scratch nonessential tasks off your list for December.  Use your time to do things in advance. i.e. bake cookies ahead and freeze for later.
Enjoy the process.  Don't just try to get through the holidays.  Involve the entire family by letting others help cook, decorate, or wrap gifts.
Keep to your routines.  Get plenty of sleep and maintain regular meal, nap, and bedtime schedules.
Delegate duties to family members and don't be afraid to ask for help from relatives.
Recognize your stress signals and take steps to reduce them.
Exercise and workouts can help release pent-up frustrations while producing endorphins (brain chemicals that counteract stress).
Avoid alcohol and drugs.  Using alcohol or drugs to relieve stress will only mask symptoms and can worsen stress in the long run.
Try relaxation techniques like meditation, visualization, deep breathing and yoga to help you relax.

If you need a little extra support during this time, contact your local Member Assistance Program (MAP).   The MAP is always available to assist, all day, all week, all year.

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