Managing Stress during the Holiday Season.

The holiday season is said to be the most wonderful time of the year. Perhaps, it is so because you get to see a lot of pretty decorations and everywhere looks so beautiful and inviting. It is a time you get tempted to just laze around on a soft couch right in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate, watching your favorite TV show with no care in the world.
Alas, this is not always the case, because people usually set out to outdo whatever it is they did the previous year or subtly engage in a mental competition with their next door neighbor, making so many people push themselves beyond their limits.

For many, it is all about the Christmas traditions which makes the stress level astronomical because of the perceived 'minimum standard' which has to be matched every year. Please, don't stress, RELAX!

Remember Hooke's law in physics? That is the law of elasticity.
This law states that, for relatively small deformations of an object, the displacement or size of the deformation is directly proportional to the deforming force or load.
Hooke’s law can also be explained in the terms of strain and stress. Strain is the deformation produced by the stress. While stress is the force on the unit areas within a material caused due to externally applied force.
Now the purpose of all these information is not to make a physicist out of you, but to help you picture things better.
Many people push themselves beyond their own "elastic limit", and at that point only one thing happens - deformation.
There is a limit to which human emotions can be stretched without a consequence.
If you push yourself to a breaking point, it is totally detrimental to you.
Which is the crux of this article at this time.

The issue is not whether we will have stress or not, because stress is inevitable, but the crucial thing that makes all the difference is what we do with stress.

The degree of stress and anxiety even becomes stellar during the holiday season. This is especially true for someone that has lost a loved one. The chasm left becomes more obvious. For people that have lost something precious, the pain blows are dealt even more by the season.

For obvious reasons, Emergency room doctors do not particularly like the holiday season because a lot of avoidable injuries and accidents occur at this time. I published an article on how to stay safe during the holiday season last year. You can read about it here.

When life gets stressful, what do you do with yourself? How do you handle stress?
Many things in life cause us stress; from the terrible traffic, being late to an important meeting, preparing for a professional examination, to feeling totally burnt out from life itself.

During the holiday season, trying to pick out the right tree, determining the perfect decoration for the house, getting the desired presents for every member of the house could generates  more stress. However, below are a few tips on things you can integrate to relieve stress:

1) Start doing your shopping way early. Do not leave everything till the last minute. Shop for your tree early. Shop for the children's Christmas attire early, as well as their Christmas gifts. Just be sure to hide it very well in an isolated closet or a nook in the basement, so they don't miss the element of surprise.

2) Write down a list of all the things that needs to be done and daily do one thing off the list and tick it off when done. This will immensely reduce stress at this busy time.

3)Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. Even though this sounds contradictory, it relieves mental stress. Exercise lowers your body's stress hormones — such as cortisol — in the long term. It also helps release endorphins(the 'feel good' hormone, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers. Exercise also improves your sleep and your overall physical outlook which is a special advantage in the holiday season. A time to show others how great you look and how fantastic your physique is.

4) Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. They are very rich in anti-oxidants. For example, A dietary ingredient derived from a melon rich in antioxidant superoxide dismutase enzymes has been shown to relieve stress. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, researchers found that the supplement decreased the signs and symptoms of perceived stress and fatigue in healthy volunteers. Hence, deliberately add portions of fruits and vegetables to your diet.

5)Take Omega-3 Fish oil which may also help individuals cope with psychological stress and lower their cortisol levels. It helps to reduce anxiety level. Better still, eat fish rich in Omega-3 such as sardines, mackerel, trout, tuna or cat fish. The natural source, I personally believe is the best source of anything.

6) Get scented candles and essential oils. Luckily, these are in abundance this season. Using scents to treat your mood is called aromatherapy.Aromatherapy can help lower anxiety and stress. Light a candle or use essential oils( such as Lavender oil, Bergamont oil and rose essential oil) to benefit from calming scents. When these oils are used in a massage they help relieve anxiety and stress, so this is a perfect excuse to pamper yourself, plus you deserve it, because you have worked so hard all year long.

7)Green tea: Green tea contains many polyphenol antioxidants which provide health benefits. It may lower stress and anxiety by increasing serotonin levels. Camomile tea in a cup is also soothing.

8)Drink lots of water. Water reduces stress. Studies have shown that dehydration leads to higher cortisol levels—the stress hormone—making it harder to deal with everyday issues. By staying hydrated you will be better equipped to deal everyday problems. 

9) Sleep. Do not forget your beauty sleep, you definitely need it. It helps you stay reinvigorated and energized. I understand that there is a lot to be done, but do not let anything come in the way of your adequate sleep. Sleeplessness makes for a cranky you, which would not be good for anyone. 

10) Sit back and just enjoy the season. We only get this time once a year , so you might as well make the best of it. Give gifts, spend time with family and eat a lot of all the goodies, but make healthy choices.

Have a beautiful holiday season. 

"It's not the Load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it."
                                                                                                          - Lou Holtz

Warm regards,
Dr Funmi.


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