Holiday stress is a yearly occurrence for many people, and can be a difficult and uncomfortable, part of the holiday season. Here, we will discuss the root causes of holiday stress, its associated symptoms and give suggestions for beating -- and even avoiding -- holiday stress.
What Is Stress?
Stress is defined as the human body's response to heightened physical, mental or emotional tension. In the short-term, stress can prove beneficial. When people face danger or are placed in situations that require increased concentration and alertness, experiencing feelings of stress can help one better adapt to and successfully cope with such circumstances.
However, over the long haul, stress can precipitate repetitive, potentially serious systemic consequences. The bodies of those who experience chronic or excessive stress release increasing amounts of what are known as "stress hormones" such as adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals have the potential to cause virtually every internal system to work harder and faster. Should stress occur on a routine basis, an impacted person may be stricken with a variety of physical, mental and emotional manifestations.
Since stress can impact almost everyone in different ways, as well as influence almost any bodily region, any number of symptoms can accompany it. However, some of the most common manifestations of stress include physical issues such as digestive problems, headaches, increased pulse, chest and other bodily aches, sleep disturbances, tiredness, decreased libido (sex drive) and a weakened immune system. Mental and emotionally based issues could include mood swings, anxiety, depression, cognitive function challenges like memory loss and concentration difficulties. Chronic stress could also exacerbate a host of underlying medical conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure and several autoimmune disorders.
What is Holiday Stress?
So-called "holiday stress" is a specific type of stress occurs during the period ranging from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Though the holidays are typically thought to be a joyous time spent with family and friends, these occasions may also provide a breeding ground for stress. During the holidays, many individuals are forced to take on additional responsibilities such as planning and orchestrating family gatherings, participating in work-related celebrations and buying gifts for many different people. The end result of such activities might be fun and rewarding.
That said, reaching that point often requires people to expend additional time and effort. Unfortunately, the year-round professional, family and social duties that most individuals are saddled with do not go on hiatus during the holiday season. Therefore, this festive season has the potential to produce more tension and anxiety than other times of the year.
Avoiding or Reducing Stress During the Holiday Season
Keeping in mind the potential dangers of excessive exposure to stress, it is smart to attempt to employ methods designed to curtail or eliminate the condition's occurrence. Such a goal may be met be practicing techniques like:
Adopting an Organized Schedule
Everyone is busy, especially during the holiday period. However, crafting an organized schedule dictating when holiday-related activities can be completed can help you to avoid or reduce incidents of additional tension. For example, people are urged to plan their holiday schedule several weeks prior to Thanksgiving. One might set such an plan to accommodate completion of actions like shopping, cooking and preparing their homes for parties.
Health care professionals stress that individuals should not wait until the last minute or attempt to cram holiday-related activities into a small time window that arises "whenever time permits." Adhering to such practices will almost assuredly lead to stressful situations which will take a toll on your body.
Being Fiscally Responsible
Of course, the holidays are a time to splurge and indulge the desires of loved ones, such as children. That said, few matters precipitate tension like financial problems. Ergo, holiday revelers are strongly encouraged to monitor their spending and take extra precautions not to waste money.
Not Overextending Yourself
Among the quickest and most direct methods of incurring greater stress levels is to take on too many obligations. The holiday season is a time of giving. That said, incurring too many responsibilities and attempting to please too many people will also almost assuredly precipitate the onset of excessive stress and its potentially serious health manifestations.
With so many parties and gatherings, it may be easy for some people to celebrate in excess and engage in potentially detrimental activities such as overspending and overeating. Additionally, stressful periods might also cause certain individuals to attempt to quell their tensions by partaking in activities like smoking or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. There is no harm or fault in enjoying oneself, however, indulgences should be enjoyed in moderation.
Addressing Sadness and Loss
For certain individuals, especially for those who have recently lost loved ones, the holiday season can be a particularly unhappy time. Those impacted by such circumstances might find relief by seeking out others in similar situations, keeping busy through activities like volunteering or beginning new holiday traditions that do not elicit reminders of departed individuals.
Taking Care of Yourself
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it's easy to overlook your own health. Medical professionals stress that neglecting individual well-being could leave you even more susceptible to stress and illness. During the holidays (as at any other time of the year), those who plan to manage stress and avoid sickness stand a better chance of doing so by practicing techniques such as eating a balanced diet, exercising, taking a natural supplement containing ingredients that can help your body to better deal with stress, obtaining the proper amount of rest and taking relaxing breaks designed to clear the mind and clam the body.