The word stress can usually be associated with the holidays and end of the year. Not only does it take a mental toll on you, but it also physically affects the body. When you start to see physical symptoms, it’s usually a sign you should slow down and take a deep breath!
During stressful times, your hormones can create a sense of anxiety which narrow the arteries, making the heart work harder and can even increase your risk of cardiovascular disease over time. Stress also causes tension in multiple parts of the body including the neck and back. Muscles tense up in response which cause spasms, soreness and pain.
Your pants may start to feel increasingly tighter during these high stress times as well as an upset stomach. Stress and anxiety can decrease your metabolism and cause you to reach for more comfort in foods or alcohol. It also causes distress to the GI tract leading to inflammation, pain and a weaker immune system.
That’s a lot of damage that can be caused from worries such as money, gifts and family! Instead, prepare yourself with a plan to help decrease these symptoms and breeze through the holidays.
1. Stay in your regular exercise routine. Exercise is a natural stress reducer and can be a breath of fresh air if taken outside (walks, biking, hikes). Even if you only have 5-10 minutes a day to fit exercise in, studies have shown that higher intensity exercise done during those short intervals can increase your life span and contribute to cardiovascular health.
2. Stay calm. Take a yoga class or take a few minutes to yourself to meditate, even if it’s at your desk or in the kitchen. There are many podcasts, books and articles that will help guide you through a meditation, or just repeating a simple mantra in your head for a few deep breaths can lead to bliss.
3. Eat right. Instead of enjoying every cookie, pie or appetizer, stick with what you normally eat with a few indulgences. High sugar foods will spike your blood sugar, leaving you more tired and hungry sooner. Instead, choose veggies as dippers instead of crackers, lemon water over soda, fresh salsas over creamy dips or mixed nuts over chips for more fiber!
4. Sleep more. Research shows that when you skimp on sleep, you alter parts of the brain associated with cravings or appetite. Sleep will also help you close your mind off and get a fresh start the next day.
Get through the holiday season stress free and don’t ignore your body’s physical cues that it’s time to slow down and take care of yourself.