I know, I know…you probably have tons of people telling you that you should be slowing down and enjoying the holidays. With all of the gift buying, gift wrapping, cooking, baking, and family parties, slowing down probably impossible. How in the world are you supposed to slow down and enjoy the holiday season?
What is stress and how does it affect the body?
Stress can really do a number on your body. Stress is a natural reaction to life – we all experience it every once in a while. It can even be a good thing. When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) that bump up your heart and breathing rates leaving your body ready to react in serious situations.
If your stress levels stay high for too long, it can really take a toll on the different systems in your body. For example, your central nervous system controls your “fight or flight” response. This happens when your hypothalamus tells your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. Once the stressor is removed, your hormone levels should drop back down to normal. If your hormone levels stay elevated, the response will continue. This can lead to chronic feelings of anxiety, irritability, and depression.
Stress takes a toll on your digestive system too. When your body is dealing with stress, your body compensates and produces extra blood sugar to give you a bump in energy. Unfortunately, the same stress that causes your liver to pump out more blood sugar can stop your body from keeping up with the extra glucose. This is how chronic stress could lead to Type II diabetes. Chronic stress can also change the way that you digest food, potentially causing nausea, diarrhea, or constipation.
3 Tried-and-True Stress Reducers
Instead of putting yourself in stressful situations, commit to using the holiday season to take care of yourself. Below I share my go-to self care and stress management tips for the holiday season.
Eat a healthy diet
I’m not just saying this because I’m a dietitian! If you eat en extra nutrient-rich diet, you’ll be setting yourself up for success all holiday season. Sneaking in some extra antioxidants and micronutrients during stressful periods like the holidays is a great way to prevent yourself from getting sick and making sure you feel your best when the family visits. Now you shouldn’t deprive yourself of having an extra holiday treat every once in awhile, but don’t let it become a daily ritual! Be strategic and pick a few occasions where you’ll know that your eating habits will be out-of-the-norm and be enjoy it!
Turn up the music.
Feeling a little overwhelmed while you’re cooking your annual holiday feast? Turn on some Christmas tunes and crank up the volume! Music has a positive effect on the body and brain. Trust me, a little bit of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas will go a long way. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…”
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to commit to every party you get invited to! Saying no to obligations you’re not particularly excited about leaves space to say yes to things that you know you’ll enjoy. Saying no might feel weird at first but the more you say it, the easier it will get. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!