EXPERIENCE LESS HOLIDAY STRESS: Tips for a more joyous season.


Stress is how the human body responds to any demand for change. The body reacts to worry, fear, or any other stress-causing emotion,  by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream. We experience this because when our ancestors faced danger, they often needed increased adrenaline, cortisol, & norepinephrine, to give them extra strength and energy to fend off an attack or run from a predator. Now, this reaction happens in response to anything from a near collision between two vehicles to an altercation at Starbucks. When stress chemicals are released into the bloodstream, there is seldom the accompanying physical action to use them up. Overexposure to the chemicals that make up the natural stress response can cause problems; short-term stress can lead to increased illness and fatigue, while long term, it can lead to many negative outcomes, such as heart attack, kidney disease, and stroke. The holidays can be very stressful. Below are some suggestions for enjoying the season more by cutting stress.

Prioritize tasks and simplify to-do lists. During especially busy times, allow yourself say “no” to requests that you are not able to accommodate without feeling guilty. Be polite but firm if a request will not fit on your holiday list. Try to plan ahead so that the weeks preceding holiday gatherings aren’t packed with last minute details. Decide what really matters and make sure it gets taken care of, skip less critical tasks.

Suggestion: Do research online before shopping, that way, you will know which products and models you want to purchase when you arrive at a store.

Delegate when possible. In spite of what you may believe, you don’t have to do it all. For the most part, everyone feels better when they have contributed something to a party or holiday meal. When people offer to help, let them!  If a neighbor offers to pick up your holiday dress at the dry cleaners, or the kids are driving right by the market and ask if you need anything, ask them to grab the eggnog – you don’t really want to go out for anyway. Most people are happy to lend a hand or bring a dish, all you need to do is ask.

Suggestion: Email the whole family a few weeks before the holiday gathering and ask them what they’d like to volunteer to do. You’ll be amazed at how happy everyone is to contribute!

Take care of yourself. No matter how busy you are, do your best to get sufficient rest, eat well, and get regular exercise. It may be tempting to burn the midnight oil, eat convenience foods, and skip spinning class, but these things will cause your overall health and wellbeing to suffer. Put your own health and wellness first, not only is it good for you, it gives others the permission to take care of themselves too.  Learn to feel comfortable saying no to parties and requests that overwhelm you. Be flexible and try to laugh off last minute changes and minor inconvenience.

Suggestion: Pack healthy meals and snacks for yourself, this will help you avoid overindulging in holiday cookies, which seem to be everywhere during the holidays.

Enjoy time with family and friends. After all, the holidays are a time when we can all come together and reflect on the year that has passed. The ultimate goal of all the planning and hard work is to enjoy time with loved ones. Remember what is truly important. Set realistic expectations and let go of idealized visions of what the holiday should be. Regardless of which holidays you celebrate. Having fun will make all the hard work worthwhile.

Suggestion: Use the holidays as an excuse reach out to the friends- meet for coffee or lunch and let yourself laugh about the things that might ordinarily stress you out.

Practice gratitude. A number of recent studies show that it is not possible to feel appreciation and fear at the same time.  An attitude of gratitude can reduce stress hormones, lower heart rate, and improve your body’s immune response. Along the same lines, avoiding people who are perpetually negative can be a good way to stay in good spirits throughout the holiday season. Find the time to wonder at all the gifts you have in your life and promote this kind of appreciation in others by asking them what they feel most thankful for.

Suggestion: Have a gratitude circle at a family dinner where everyone tells the group something that they are thankful for.

Be generous. Research shows that those who give their time and money actually feel as if they have more of them. Furthermore, those who volunteer tend to have lower rates of depression and it has even been suggested by research that volunteering can lower risk of heart disease. At the holidays, many people have the opportunity to take stock of their lives and look at what has changed in the year that has passed. This kind of introspection can lead to a sense of well-being which makes the holidays a perfect time to share resources with others.

Suggestion: Volunteer as a family. Hand out blankets and coats at a local shelter, or forgo gift exchange and donate the money to an agreed upon charity. You’ll feel more grateful and you’ll also be helping others in need.

About Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc.:

Established in 2002 and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, BHPI is a Managed Behavioral Health Organization offering behavioral health services through a fully integrated network of world-class healthcare providers.  Our emphasis is on adding value for our customers by offering expert behavioral care management, medical coordination, and behavioral disease and chronic behavioral condition management.  BHPI offers collaborative solutions by building strong partnerships with HMOs, Health Systems, Insurance Companies, and Employer groups.  For more information visit: BHPI.org