Combating Holiday Induced Stress

While holidays often bring families and friends together to celebrate and reconnect, they can also present an array of stressful situations and demands. From balancing a budget for gifts and hosting guests for extended periods of time, to cleaning, cooking and entertaining, holiday months can lead to unwarranted stress, which can lead to a compromised health state.


“In times of stress, adrenaline kicks into gear causing the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, which is the “fight or flight” hormone. In any single stress situation, this can usually return to normal relatively quickly without causing too much harm. However prolonged stress keeps the body in an armed state, sending blood pressure, glucose, and fatty acid levels to an unhealthy high, ” said Dr. Mark Gunderson, MD of the Age Management Institute. “The most important suggestion I tell my patients battle stress would be to stick to your usual health routine as much as possible. Sometimes we see the holidays as an excuse to not stay active or to eat poorly. What we may not realize is that even temporary changes during an already busy time can have a detrimental affect on our general well-being.”


Dr. Mark Gunderson provides a few key things to remember to lessen the likelihood of a stressful holiday.


  1. Do not relinquish healthy habits. – Overindulgence can actually contribute to a person’s stress and cause feelings of regret and guilt. Consider a healthy, high protein snack prior to holiday get-togethers such as a small handful of unsalted nuts and a piece of fruit to avoid consuming to many high calorie drinks and appetizers. Plenty of sleep, water and physical activity should also not be forgotten.
  2. Take a break. – Sometimes just ten to fifteen minutes alone and away from the uptick of visitors, planning and preparing can help you regain clarity and perspective instead of becoming overstressed and anxious. Consider a short walk or simply just time alone catch up on news, listen to music or just relax. Returning to the holiday chaos will be much more manageable if you allow small windows of time for yourself.
  3. Understand that not all things go as planned. – Stress can occur in those who entertain, shop amongst the crowds, or who are just planning on the perfect reaction from a person who is receiving their gift.  Preparing yourself beforehand with an understanding and expectation that not everything will go as planned… and that’s “ok” will help lessen the likelihood of letting stress overcome you.