Does the holiday season leave you stressed? You are not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, financial concerns are taking a toll on many Americans this season, many of whom admit to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as eating or alcohol.
First, what is stress, exactly? Stress is the wear and tear on the body as a result of physical or emotional conditions. One
can undergo physical stress, such as too many hours at the computer or too much
time spent in a smoggy city. One can also experience emotional stress, such a
difficult work situation or loss of a loved one. Whether the cause is emotional or
physical, the body responds the same way:
the first stage of stress is alarm. In the
alarm stage, the “fight or flight” responses
are activated. Heart rate increases; blood
pressure rises; digestion decreases.
Next is the resistance stage. Here, if the stressor is not dealt with effectively,
the person becomes more irritable, more run down. Last
is the exhaustion phase. Energy reserves are depleted;
there is greater susceptibility to serious illness. It is in this
stage that one is more likely to turn to unhealthy coping
mechanisms such as alcohol.
What are some healthier ways to deal with holiday
stress? First, be realistic — realistic about your finances,
realistic about your relationships and realistic in your
Overspending will not only add to stress
this holiday season, but over the coming months when
trying to repay bills. Next, be realistic about relationships.
Many other people are as stressed as you during the
holidays. Contrary to popular TV shows, the holidays don’t
magically resolve family or community conflict. Finally, be
realistic in your expectations. In this economy, be grateful
for small, handmade gifts. Don’t expect extravagance.
Next, turn to your faith. Follow teachings of what
should truly matter — your beliefs, your loved ones, your
friends, time spent together. Money and material things
should take a back seat; this is true of most religious
beliefs, across cultures.
Finally, minimize the toll stress takes
on your body. Laugh! Laughing can
increase the effectiveness of the immune
system and help combat the effects of
stress. Exercise is important for your body
and your spirit. A 10-minute walk can
brighten your mood for two hours. Enroll
in a yoga class. Yoga works strength,
flexibility, balance and focus. Eat right.
Allowing small indulgences is very
different from gorging on sweets and
other holiday favorites. Take a massage
class with your spouse or a friend. Request
a gift certificate for a massage. See your
Chiropractic minimizes irritation to nerve
roots, reduces joint restriction and relieves muscle tension.
Finding healthy ways to deal with stress should be a
year-round project. If you are having trouble, even after
trying many self-help tips, seek the help of a trusted friend,
pastor or psychologist.
Written by Leah Pittmon, B.S., D.C., Pittmon Family Chiropractic Center