Heart Disease and How to Manage Holiday Stress

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro
  • The Holidays are a joyful time of year, but even the most enjoyable holiday season can be stressful at times. Last minute gift buying, entertaining friends and family, and the travel associated with this time of year, can get a bit overwhelming. 


    While a little stress can actually be good for you, it's important not to let these situations get the better of you, particularly if you are dealing with high blood pressure, or another heart related condition. 


    How to Manage Holiday Stress

    Here are some ways that will help you to manage the stress associated with the holiday season:


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    1. Get Plenty of Rest

    The increased demands on your time over the holidays, mean it's not unusual for people to skimp on sleep, in an effort to get everything done. But, this can be counterproductive.


    Sleep deprivation reduces your ability to cope with even the smallest stressors. A lack of sleep has been shown to increase levels of cortisol in the blood. This stress hormone is associated with increased blood pressure and negatively affects your immune system. High levels of cortisol also promote fat storage, not a positive side effect for most of us. 


    2. Stick to a Budget

    Much of the stress associated with this time of year revolves around finances. With so much advertising and so many opportunities to shop, it's very difficult to keep from spending more money than you intend.


    Keep this under control by setting a budget for holiday gifts, and then stick to it. Remember that the best gift you can give to your loved ones is your time and attention — the rest are simply window dressings. 


    3. Manage Your Expectations

    Many of us set unrealistically high expectations for holiday gatherings, and feel as if we've failed if not everything lives up to our expectations.


    If you can learn to relax a little and go with the flow, you'll find that even if things don't go exactly as you'd planned, they can still be enjoyable and memorable in their own right. 


    4. Don't Overeat or Over-drink 

    The key phrase here is: "Everything in moderation." It's very easy to get carried away, both with food and drink over the holiday season.


    Unfortunately, too much alcohol can have a negative effect on your heart health, not to mention your enjoyment of the morning after. If you are taking a drink, just be aware of how much you've had, and stop before you reach the point where you've had too much. 


    It's the same with food.


    We've all experienced the added pounds that come with too much holiday food. The best advice is to eat slowly, drink water before your meals, and get some gentle exercise if you can, to help burn off some calories. A brisk walk with an old friend or family member can help you accomplish this.


    5. Seek Out Social Support

    If you're alone for all or part of the holidays, it's important to seek out social support. Human beings are social creatures and spending time with friends, family, or even neighbours and acquaintances helps reduce our stress and makes the holidays a joyful time of year.


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    Keep in mind that we all need other people, and perhaps you can make someone's day with a brief phone call, or an offer to meet for lunch or a walk. This personal connection helps keep your spirits up, if you sometimes find yourself feeling depressed during the holidays. 


    Choosing to take care of your health and manage your stress over the holidays is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Learning to slow down and relax will help you enjoy the holidays, and your heart will be much healthier for it.


    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of Dietriffic.com. If you need help implementing a healthier lifestyle, check out her new guide, The Healthy Eating Handbook


Published On: November 23, 2010