Are you feeling joyful or anxious this holiday season? For most people the answer may be a blend of the two. The holiday season places additional demands on what may be an already busy life…social gatherings, shopping, decorating, travel. It can be a wonderful time of the year but may also be stressful.
Physical effects of stress on your body
Stress and anxiety can change how your body feels and can influence both your mood and behavior. It may cause fatigue, increasing the desire to sleep more. It can also cause physical symptoms of headache, heart racing, abdominal pain, and nausea. Some people note a change in appetite – overeating or not eating at all. Stress can also increase your chance of getting sick.
Stress influences your mood.
While stress may be a motivator for some people to get things done, for others stress causes them to feel paralyzed and overwhelmed. Further, stress can cause anger and agitation in some, depression, or tearfulness in others. Stress may cause you to isolate yourself, not wanting to be around others, which can be particularly hard during the holidays when “being social” is encouraged.
Stress can change your behavior.
Alcohol or caffeine use may increase during times of stress, which can worsen the physical feelings of anxiety. Because stress can make you feel tired, routines get disrupted – sleep may suffer, exercise may decline and eating times or amounts change. You may find yourself withdrawing from others at a time when social gatherings are increasing.
How can you cope with stress this holiday season?
- Exercise. Move your body. Every step counts. Ideally, set aside time for physical activity most days of the week. Be selfish with this. In addition, incorporate activity into your day…park farther away, walk when you can, do jumping jacks on your break. Exercise helps with sleep, achiness, and tension.
- Focus on healthy foods first. Then, allow yourself a treat but limit the amount. This can be hard when you may be surrounded by cookies and fudge. Consider eating something healthy prior to a gathering so you resist overeating.
- Express your gratitude toward others. Look for the positive in people. Reflect on the good that is happening around you.
- Know your limits – It is ok to say no.
- Take time to reflect, meditate, pray. Quiet time, even if it is just for a few minutes a day, can help you relax and reset.
- Remember to get enough sleep.
- Recognize that there are some people that are not feeling joyous this season. They may be having difficulties emotionally or financially. Express your support and meet them where they are at.
I hope that you have a joy-filled holiday season. Remember, if your stress is turning into anxiety that is affecting your day-to-day functioning, seek help from others, including your Lakeview Clinic provider.
Sandra Beulke, M.D.
Dr. Beulke joined Lakeview Clinic in April 2003. She provides the full spectrum of family medicine, including obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and geriatrics. She has special interest in women’s health and diabetes care. Dr. Beulke serves as Lakeview Clinic’s Medical Director and is also active on several committees which aim to promote quality and reliability in health care.