We all can relate to holiday stress. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Three Kings Day, Day of Enlightenment, or you are celebrating the New Year, this time of the year causes more stress and more hospitalization than any other time of the year.
Stress is your body and/or mind’s reaction to perceived danger, whether from internal or external stressors. External stress comes from outside us, while internal stress comes from within us and determines our body’s ability to respond to external stressors.
- External Stressors include physical conditions, such as an illness from an injury like a concussion or stroke, chronic pain, lack of sleep, or reaction to hot or cold temperature. Other external stressors are pollution, trauma, relationships with others, car trouble and/or financial issues.
- Internal Stressors include thoughts, feelings and beliefs that cause you worry and unrest. Fear and uncertainty included. Internal stressors can also be physical, such as a reaction to hot flashes, an infection or inflammation like Lyme disease, or psychological issues.
Stress can be acute, such as immediate threat like losing your job or your home. Psychologically, it causes the feelings of being anxious, which are different than the feelings of anxiety in an Anxiety Disorder. If you have an Anxiety Disorder, stress, regardless of the cause, only heightens your symptoms of Anxiety Disorder.
Stress can also be chronic, such as you are a caregiver to a loved one with a physical and/or mental disability, along with being a caregiver to elderly, small children, working with difficult people. The psychological part of chronic stress is feeling depressed. Again, this feeling of being depressed is different than the biochemical and/or hormonal Clinical Depression. Chronic stress can and does heighten the symptoms of Clinical Depression, as does the lack of sunlight during the winter, which is called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Additionally, stress can be both chronic and acute at the same time.
Unhealthy Holiday Lifestyles Make Symptoms Worse
During the holiday season, we tend to burn the candle at both ends. There’s a flurry of activities and things to do in a short span of time, such as: social commitments, shopping, decorating, cooking, and family get-togethers. In addition, more sugar and alcohol is consumed during the holiday season than probably any other time. If you are one of the millions or people who try to resolve your acute or chronic stress with alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and overeating, you might feel some comfort or relief at the moment, but the long term effect only compounds the physiologic effects of stress itself. This becomes a vicious cycle, causing your stress response to be only more heightened, causing greater sleep problems and an increase in drug and alcohol abuse. Sugar is a major factor that increases your stress response, especially if you have had some form of brain injury such as a concussion, stroke, or brain surgery.article continues after advertisement
To combat the lack of sleep that happens as a result of such a busy time of year, caffeine consumption also increases. Too much caffeine can actually cause changes in blood pressure and stress hormones levels, similar to those produced in chronic stress.
The rush is over, now it’s time to restore
After the holidays some people experience a letdown. The party is over and it’s back to work and routines. The body is recovering from overindulgence, lack of sleep, and shorter days. The bleak feeling is also a post-adrenaline period. Stress hormones withdraw causing you to feel a bit under the weather and blah.
Ways to restore and re-energize after the holidays:
- Get 7-8 hours of restorative sleep!
- Avoid consuming sugar, caffeine, and any form of alcohol.
- Take time for yourself! Enjoy a relaxing massage, a good book, or a long bath.
- Get outside for at least 15 minutes each day to get some sun, even on overcast winter days.
- Make a to-do list, and cross things off as you complete each task so that your mind is free and clear.
- Learn some Heart Rate Variability Breathing. It helps to lower your blood pressure and calm your autonomic nervous system.
- Try a CES device, an FDA medical device for anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
- Read more about other treatments for stress here
- Do something kind for someone else – it will make you feel good….
An Act of Kindness Can Benefit Your Health and Change the World!
Make it a point to spread goodwill this New Year. Love, kindness, compassion, and respect can and will make a big difference in the world and to your health.
Happy New Year!