Hold the Holiday Stress

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relaxBetween hockey tournaments, sick kids, soccer games, work, holiday get-togethers and renovations (why did we decide to start these in December?!), there just doesn’t seem to be enough energy to get everything done. And stress levels are high!

The holidays should be a time for friends and family and good will, but it has been estimated that about three-quarters of all visits to primary care physicians during this time of year are for stress-related problems. The result of chronic stress to our bodies is disastrous. You can work to reduce the impact of holiday stress by eating right and practicing a few easy stress-management tools.

Stress can be detrimental to mental health. The following simple suggestions can help us retain our mental health:

• Practice 10 minutes of deep breathing each day.

• Plan some time alone. It can be as simple as delving into a good book. It will lure you to take a break.

• Tell the family (nicely) to take a hike. Or take a hike, yourself! Exercise has been shown to improve mental wellness by decreasing stress and depression.

• Have a sense of humor. Humor is often helpful; many doctors use humor as a form of therapy.

• Eat right. What you eat can help your brain function better. Some of the damaging effects of stress may be due to a deficiency in essential fatty acids (EFAs). During stress, enzymes involved in the formation of polyunsaturated fatty acids are inhibited. This is problematic because EFAs give rise to less damaging inflammation mediators than other forms of fat. Therefore, EFAs are beneficial for the underlying damage that results in the health problems associated with stress (e.g., diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease). EFAs have also been shown to help with mental dysfunctions.

This holiday season, eat properly for mental health. Practice mental health skills such as relaxation and exercise. Remember to laugh at Uncle Bob’s fishing stories you’ve heard over a hundred times and to be patient with little Timmy the terror. After all, you only get to see them once a year.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023