For many of us, the holiday season begins with a deadline-driven “to do” list that includes more chores, tasks, social obligations and financial outlay than we normally face in our already busy lives. The added pressures can leave us feeling overworked and under-energized, not to mention tired, grouchy and blue.
What’s more, the stress and strain can play havoc with our health—from weakening our immune system and opening us up to cold and flu, to triggering flare-ups of existing conditions, such as GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
So, what’s the best way to cope with the added stress of holiday demands?
Dr. Robertson offers this advice:
- Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night to feel refreshed. Lack of sleep can affect metabolism, energy levels, mood and even blood pressure.
- Eat healthful foods, not junk foods, throughout the day. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains will help your digestion, immune system and energy levels.
- Exercise to release pent-up stress. Just a five-minute walk can loosen your muscles and clear your mind.
Dr. Robertson also offers these quick, do-it-yourself, stress-management techniques to help you relax.
- Rhythmic Breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose then exhale slowly through your mouth 10 times. Count slowly to five as you inhale, and then count slowly to five as you exhale. As you exhale slowly, pay attention to how your body naturally relaxes. Recognizing this change will help you to relax even more. You can do this exercise while sitting at a traffic light or at your desk at work in just a few minutes.
- Meditate. Set aside a few minutes before bed to form mental images of something pleasant, i.e., places or situations you find relaxing, such as the beach, getting a massage, painting or spending time with a child. Try to use as many senses as possible in forming your mental image, including sights, sounds, smells and textures, and stay focused on these thoughts for a few minutes or more. This exercise can help you gain a new perspective on stressful situations.
Do you have questions about holiday stress?
Join us on Thursday, December 17, beginning at noon, for our Health eTalk web chat on “Dealing with Holiday Stress.” Dr. Robertson will be live on cooperhealth.org to answer your questions.