November Wellness: Beat Holiday Stress Before it Starts

Beat Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress = Everyday Stress on Steroids

Throughout the year, we feel stress from finances, work/family balance, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, illnesses and time management. Seasonal demands add another layer of pressure that can turn the holidays into a nightmare.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have more interactions with extended family, in-laws and guests than we do in a typical year. Meals and even snacks become feasts. Unhealthy options are the norm.

More preparation, more social activities, less time – especially for exercise, which makes everything worse. Our generous nature propels us to give and give and give. By the time the holidays are over, our mind, body and bank account are simply drained. What happened to the joy? The peace and goodwill?

Stress: Symptoms, Physical & Mental Effects

It’s easy to focus on the negative because stress in our society has become a status symbol. Deadlines. Children’s activities. Volunteering. Social engagements. Projects. An empty calendar is a dirty secret. We feed into it because we’ve become addicted to stress. We thrive on stress and chaos but the tension is terrible for our health. Stress causes additional, short term and long term issues including:

Physical effects of stress

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increase in blood sugar
  • Tense, cramped or painful muscles
  • Breakdown of muscle tissue
  • Upset stomach
  • Decreased digestive functioning
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sleep problems
  • Chest pain
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Premature aging
  • Loss of brain cells

Mental effects of stress

  • Feeling out of control and overwhelmed
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritation, impatience, anger
  • Depression
  • Loneliness

Behavioral effects of stress

  • Unhealthy eating patterns
  • Substance abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Relationship problems
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Exercising less often

Undo Stress Damage for Mental and Physical Wellness

There are plenty of ideas on how to undo the damage caused by stress, but none are more effective than getting to the root of the problem in order to keep it from getting out of control. It may not be easy but it is doable and it’s necessary for your health. Go into the holidays mindful and aware of potential weaknesses by focusing on preemptive stress management.

Tips for reducing or controlling holiday stress

Behavioral Health Services North, Inc. provides a detailed list of healthful tips.

“Many people find this time of year the most stressful when, in reality, stress permeates their lives all year long. There are various triggers which may accentuate the stressors on our lives and we perceive these few weeks to be the most stressful.
The following are some tips our clinicians have put together to help you realize that you CAN make it through.”

  1. Be gentle with yourself!
  2. Remind yourself that you are NOT a magician. We cannot change anyone else – we can only change HOW we relate to them.
  3. Find a hermit spot. Use it daily. Spend 7 to 10 minutes alone without any distractions and do whatever you want to: visualize yourself in your ideal vacation spot, see yourself accepting an award for the employee-of-the-year, or choose to do absolutely nothing (how often do you get to do that??!!)
  4. Give support, encouragement and praise to peers and to management. Learn to accept it in return.
  5. Remember that we are bound to feel helpless at times. Admit it without shame. Caring and being there for others are sometimes more important than doing.
  6. Change your routine often and your tasks when you can. Choose a different way to go home from work or to travel to school tomorrow. You’ll find yourself noticing and enjoying new things in your life!
  7. Learn to recognize the difference between complaining that relieves and complaining that reinforces negative stress.
  8. On the way home, focus on a good thing that occurred during the day.
  9. Be a resource to yourself! Get creative – try new approaches. Be an artist as well as a technician.
  10. Use supervision or the buddy system regularly as a source of support, assurance and re-direction.
  11. Avoid “shop talk” during breaks and when socializing with colleagues.
  12. Schedule “withdraw” periods during the week – limit interruptions.
  13. Say “I choose” rather than “I should, I ought to or I have to.” Say, “I won’t” rather than “I can’t.”
  14. Remember this: If you never say “no” – what is your “yes” worth?
  15. Aloofness and indifference are far more harmful than admitting an inability to do more.
  16. Laugh and play!

Find the joy again and let there be Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All – and to ourselves!

About Pathways to SmartCare

Pathways to SmartCare is an Employee Wellness Program based in Pittsburgh, PA.  We analyze your group and tailor a plan that works best to improve the health of your employees and their families.  On the business side, we move your healthcare dollars to wellness dollars, and that means long term improvements in productivity, reduced absenteeism, and overall kudos from your employees.

Read More: Pathways to SmartCare Employee Wellness Program

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