The holiday season is upon us, and although many believe it is “the most wonderful time of the year,” you might agree that it can sometimes feel like the most stressful time of the year. Beyond the decorating, shopping, social obligations, financial pressures and more, this year we continue to be impacted by stress related to COVID-19.
According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, “Americans are struggling with the basic decisions required to navigate daily life as the effects of pandemic-related stress continue to take a toll, especially on younger adults and parents.”
Although a reasonable amount of stress is normal, it’s important to recognize high levels of stress which can be dangerous to your health and may contribute to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, anxiety and depression. By taking the following steps to reduce any additional stress, you will hopefully have enjoyable holiday season.
Learn to recognize your holiday stress triggers and relievers. Financial pressures and personal demands are two common triggers, therefore try budgeting time and money. It’s ok to say no to some invitations to avoid overextending yourself. And be sure to set a realistic budget you can stick to. Also, be aware of your unhealthy stress relievers. Holiday stress may cause some people to fall into bad habits such as smoking, drinking or eating too much.
Give yourself a break. While doing things for others, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. If you feel stress building up, take a break for a few minutes and focus on something you enjoy about the season. Listening to music, taking time to watch a movie, or taking a short walk to enjoy holiday lights can give you time to unwind and recharge.
Count your blessings. Find time and creative ways to focus on things for which you are grateful. For example, while waiting in line at the store, use the wait time as an opportunity to reflect on the good things that have already happened that day. Stay connected to the things that ground you like faith, family, friends and community. Research has shown that a focus on gratitude can help to reduce stress.
Make time for your health. In the holiday rush, don’t let your well-being fall by the wayside. Try to stay on your normal sleep schedule, exercise regularly and don’t overindulge too much.
Check your health plan benefits. Insurers like UnitedHealthcare offer behavioral health solutions that can range from caring for your mental health to treatment for substance abuse, with a goal of helping improve your overall well-being.
If it feels like you’re not able to get a handle on your stress, talk with your doctor. They …….