Reducing Christmas stress the healthy way

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Cat and Christmas lights. Picture courtesy of Eftodii Aurelia

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also a time when stress levels soar. It can be a significant source of stress, pressure, and conflict. Some people may feel overwhelmed by the expectations and become depressed during the holidays. Stress may have adverse effects on thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, if left unchecked. Research has shown that there is an increase in the occurrence of heart attacks and heart-related deaths during the festive season, which may be due to stress, heavy alcohol consumption, a fatty diet, or all three.

So, one of the stress reducing tips is taking some time out. Trying to achieve everything alone during the holidays can take its toll on the mind and body. It is recommended that people enlist some help in accomplishing some of the tasks and take some time out to rest.  Destressing can benefit people and their families.

People can also focus on doing something relaxing to recharge their batteries, such as reading a book, watching a Christmas movie, listening to music, or having a massage. One should also avoid overindulging. ‘Tis the season for indulgence, and whether it be a festive holiday party or a family dinner, people are surrounded by extravagant foods and alcoholic drinks. Although many people only gain an extra pound during the holiday period, that extra pound may build up over the coming years and contribute to obesity later in life, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dietitians from the University of Missouri in Columbia recommend that families should aim to maintain healthful dietary habits during the holidays in order to avoid weight gain and stress.  “Eat a healthful diet during the day. Eat some high-protein snacks, such as yogurt or an apple with peanut butter, so that you are not too hungry by the time that dinner arrives. Make simple food swaps. Eat whole-wheat bread instead of white, and brown rice instead of white, to help keep you feeling fuller for longer. Be treatwise and enjoy seasonal treats in controlled portion sizes,” recommended the dieticians.

Walking is beneficial for holiday stress, whether it is short or long.. The Journal of Neuroscience demonstrates that physical activity reorganizes the brain in such a way that it reduces its response to stress. Regular exercise can help to decrease tension and boost and stabilize mood. Furthermore, exercising produces endorphins — natural painkilling chemicals that are released in the brain — that improve your ability to sleep and reduce stress. Researchers found that working out in a group reduced stress levels by 26 per cent and improved physical, mental, and emotional quality of life.

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