Good food, laughter, and quality time with family. A picture perfect holiday season, right? Well, that is Hollywood’s version anyway. Holidays tend to spike stress levels for many.
Finding just the right gift. Preparing for company. Long hours cooking. Then hours of clean up. Late nights socializing. Long days on the road. Hazardous travel conditions.
Holiday activities trigger a spike in cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks. There is about a 5 percent increase in heart-related deaths during this season according to a 2004 study published in Circulation.
Take steps this holiday season to counteract the extra stress you know is ahead.
- Plan ahead. Schedule time to shop, prepare food, and visit friends and family to avoid last-minute scrambling. Don’t over-schedule yourself.
- Set realistic expectations. Holidays do not have to be perfect and traditions do not have to be maintained exactly. As families change, it is okay if traditions shift.
- Budget. Before you shop, decide how much you can afford to spend on gifts and food. Stick to your budget. As the saying goes…money does not buy happiness.
- Avoid known stressors. It’s the holidays and I hate to imply you should avoid family, but as we all know you don’t get to pick your family. There is likely one family member who causes you extra stress. Be prepared. Agree to set aside differences. Avoid conversations or situations that will lead to disagreements.
- Maintain healthy habits. Just because it’s the holidays, does not mean you have a green light to gorge and sit on the couch all day. Plan when you’ll fit in some activity, how to get needed sleep, and what foods you will indulge in and what you will refrain from.
- Make time for you. A 10-15 minute period of peace and quiet will go a long ways towards feeling refreshed and reducing stress.
- Avoid excess alcohol. Binge drinking can lead to atrial fibrillation. Don’t go overboard.
- Take action if you need help. Sadness and grief may surround the holidays, especially if it is a “first” without a loved one OR if you cannot be with your family this holiday. Reach out to others for the support you need. Seek professional help when warranted.
- Don’t put off appointments. Don’t let holiday travels lead to cancelled appointments or delayed medical treatment. Your health comes first. If something doesn’t feel right, contact your doctor now, not later.
Also, if you are not the one hosting the holiday festivities, plan what you can do to pitch in and help the one who is.
I’m not sharing this so you dread the holidays. I’m sharing because if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure you are already at increased risk for heart-related events. Be aware the holidays can further increase your risk and take counter steps to maintain your health.