Holiday stress: Do's and don'ts

The holiday season comes with family, friends, excitement, and a whole lot of stress. We all want to avoid pressure and conflicts, but we end up getting overwhelmed by our expectations. Jingle Bell Rock, more like Jingle Bell Stop.

The American Heart Association conducted a study that showed an increase in the occurrence of heart attacks, and other heart-related deaths during the holiday season. This can be due to stress, heavy alcohol consumption, an unhealthy diet, or a combination of all of these. 

Cardiologist Dr. Caitlin Giesler of Seton Heart Institute said, “Stress causes a number of both short-term and long-term adverse effects on the body, and it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It’s important that we monitor our stress levels, particularly during the holidays, and find ways to manage our stress.”

Here are some tips for managing holiday stress:

- Limit spending:
     
- Use a budget for your usual expenses, and plan for additional holiday spending. This should include travel plans, and parties you are hosting. Make sure to budget for what you have to spend on gifts - be organized and realistic.
     - Help avoid temptation by limiting the time you spend at stores or in the shopping mall. Manage impulsive spending by taking the exact amount of cash you need for the gifts you want to buy. Leave the credit card at home. 

- Manage expectations:
     
- Remember what's important during the holiday season. The quality time spend with family and friends is more important than hosting the perfect party, or giving the perfect gift.
     - Find the time to recharge and refocus.

- Avoid over-indulging:
     
- Excessive stress increases appetites and cravings, and chronic drinking can lead to increased stress. Families should aim to maintain a healthy diet to avoid weight gain around the holidays.
     - Eating high-protein snacks throughout the day helps you avoid indulging on one meal. Swap out white bread for whole-wheat bread, or white rice with brown rice. Be mindful of portion sizes.

- Go for a walk:
     
- Regular exercise can reduce stress by decreasing tension and stabilizing your mood. Exercise releases endorphins that improve your ability to sleep and reduce stress.

- Have fun:
     
- Laughter really is the best medicine. Laughter stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and also releases endorphins.  

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