How to Prevent and Manage Holiday Stress

Between fighting traffic, finding the perfect gifts, and trying not to blow the budget, the holiday season can be particularly stressful. This stress, if left unchecked, can really take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health.

On your bodyOn your moodOn your behavior
HeadacheAnxietyOvereating or undereating
Muscle tension or painRestlessnessAngry outbursts
Chest painLack of motivation or focusDrug or alcohol misuse
FatigueFeeling overwhelmedTobacco use
Change in sex driveIrritability or angerSocial withdrawal
Stomach upsetSadness or depressionExercising less often
Sleep problems
Chart courtesy of: Mayo Clinic

Fortunately, with a little intentionality, you can manage and even prevent holiday stress. Here’s how.

1. Give your body adequate sleep, water, and healthy food.

holiday stress

Preventing holiday stress starts with setting your body up for success by giving it what it needs. Sleep (or the lack thereof) is one of the most common stress culprits, particularly around the holidays. Make sure you’re getting adequate rest (i.e. 7-8 hours per night). Studies show that dehydration can also cause stress and vice versa. Be sure you’re drinking half your body weight in water each day. Sometimes when we’re shopping and running to and from Christmas parties, we don’t pay attention to what we’re putting into our bodies. Make sure you’re getting enough vegetables and protein and monitoring your sugar/caffeine intake, as sugar and caffeine can aggravate stress.

2. Create some margin.

If you’re having a hard time preventing and managing your holiday stress, one of the key things you should evaluate is your schedule. Are you constantly on-the-go or feeling rushed? If so, you may have overbooked yourself this holiday season. Take some time to list your weekly commitments so that you can visualize how busy you are. Next, tally how much time each activity takes so that you can be realistic. Chances are, you are not leaving enough margin in your life and you need to cut some things out in order to prevent and manage stress.

3. Get outside.

The great outdoors may be a bit more chilly during the holiday season, but exercising and enjoying nature are both great ways to de-stress. Plus, the more you get outside, the less likely you are to use solely your phone, computer, or television to unwind, which can actually induce stress rather than release it.

5. Talk to your primary care provider.

If none of the above have helped lower your stress levels, it might be time to consult your primary care provider. Keep a “stress journal” to track your stress and show it to your doctor.

Gardendale Primary Care can help you pinpoint stress triggers in your life and talk you through your options for managing that stress effectively.