Tips to Managing Holiday Stress

The holiday season can bring about an abundance of emotions, not all of which are positive. Between finding the perfect gift, coordinating celebrations, and balancing work/life schedules, it's no surprise many of us feel anxiety start to creep up this time of year. In fact, 38% of Americans report their stress levels increase around the holidays.

The good news is this: With the right mindset and healthy habits, stress doesn't have to get the best of us. We're sharing our top stress management tips so we can all get back to what the holidays are about — celebrating with friends and family.

The Link Between Stress and Heart Health

It should come as no surprise that there is a direct link between stress and your health. When our bodies are under severe emotional distress, mental pressure, or even physical stress, we produce stress hormones: adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. You may be more familiar with the term "fight-or-flight response" — either way, damage occurs when our body releases too many stress hormones and our hearts tend to take the brunt of it.

Why? The release of stress hormones into the bloodstream increases the likelihood of both heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest. Studies have shown 15-30% of heart attack patients admitted to a medical center suffered from severe emotional stress. High levels of stress hormone can also knock the heartbeat out of its natural rhythm.

All of this to say: Too much stress can do more harm to your body than just a few sleepless nights.

Managing Stress to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Minimizing your stress response is critical for keeping your mind and body healthy long term. The American Heart Association and Stress Management Society suggest a variety of healthy practices to limit stress, but everyone is different. Spend time to find the techniques that work best for you and stick to them, especially during the holidays:

  • Aim for a Well-Balanced Diet

    We don't always have the best eating habits during the holiday season, especially if we're stressed. Help keep your body healthy by consuming nutritious foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein as often as possible, while limiting your intake of sugary treats, saturated fats, sodium, red meat, and alcohol.

  • Exercise Regularly

    Along with all its other health benefits, exercise is a great way to release stress. Don't wait until the new year to begin exercising on a consistent basis: 150 minutes a week for moderate activity or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity is recommended.

  • Manage Your Time

    It's easy to get overbooked with both work and personal engagements during the holiday season. Make sure to manage your time efficiently, and don't be afraid to say no to an invite if it feels like you're taking on too much. Be sure to schedule in enough time for self-care as well.

  • Maintain a Positive Mindset

    A positive mindset can be very powerful — it can truly be the difference between defeating stress or letting stress defeat you. Even if you're not able to accomplish everything you had planned out, don't let one small deviation stop you from moving forward.

  • Do What You Love

    Remember to enjoy yourself and indulge in the low stress activities that bring you joy. Consider picking up a relaxing hobby such as yoga, journaling, reading, or board games. Having something that takes your mind off the external factors is a great way to give your mind, soul, and body a break.

Final Thoughts

In many ways, the holidays are a wonderful time of year. We get to gather with friends and family, cook delicious meals, travel, and celebrate with our loved ones. There is a lot of excitement in the air and it's hard not to get wrapped up in the fast pace of it all. If you start to feel anxious or stressed, take a deep breath, take a step back, and follow these tips to start the new year with a healthy heart.

Are you heart smart?