Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Managing Holiday Stress
“It is December 22, one day after the first day of winter. Oh MY! Only three holiday shopping days left! The traffic is thick and it is taking twice as long to get from shop to shop. Anxiety and tension are increasing! The holiday gift list is FOREVER in length. There is a school holiday program that must be attended tonight (I wish grandmother were still here to participate). I’m feeling a bit depressed and overwhelmed. The company party is tomorrow night, dry cleaning must be picked up and the holiday dinner menu is still pending completion. Speaking of dinner, I forgot to take the hamburger out of the freezer for the taco bake tonight!”
Is this the familiar sound of holiday stress? Holiday stress occurs when our expectations for making the season perfect conflicts with the responsibilities of everyday life.
It is extremely important that we manage stress in our lives. Stress weakens the immune system. Each cell has a “clock” called a telomere that shortens each time it divides. The body creates the enzyme telomerase that protects the cell by adding DNA to the end of the telomere preventing further shortening. When the body is under stress, it produces the hormone cortisol that suppresses telomerase. Study results show how people under chronic stress have shorter telomeres, making them more susceptive to illness. Eliminating unnecessary stress may reduce risks of heart disease, shingles, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, immune disorders including flare ups of lupus and multiple sclerosis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and worsening pain.
There are many ways that we can prevent holiday stress.
- It is important to acknowledge these feelings and to reach out to others when we feel that we need to be supported.
- Being realistic about our expectations for the holiday and sticking to a budget is key to preventing stress.
- Consider making a plan to include a list of all activities that must be done to have a successful season and stick to it.
- Learn to say “no” and decide which events you can attend.
- It is important to be realistic with the expectations that we have for the holiday season.
- Continue healthy eating and exercise habits and take time for yourself.
- “Eustress” or “Good Stress” can overcome “Bad Stress.”
- Playing funny games, both online and off line, may be helpful in the management of holiday stress as the good stress can leave a person feeling relaxed and peaceful.
- Managing stress with color may be helpful. Colors such as blue, pink and green can have a calming effect. Decorating or wearing these colors may be helpful in managing stress.
If you desire, you may seek professional help. Behavioral Health personnel are located in the Primary Care clinics and on the second floor of Truman VA. Telephone contacts: Behavior Health Service (573-814-6480) and 24/7 Crisis Line (1-800-273-TALK).
Other Helpful References
- How to manage stress with color; http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/how-eliminate-stress-color/
- “10 tips for beating holiday stress.” By Mary Gormandy White http://stress.lovetoknow.com/Tips_for_Beating_Holiday_Stress“
- http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544 retrieved online 11-16-16