End-of-the-year projects, reports, final exams, holiday pressures and expectations. On top of all of this we often become sick. How does stress impact our health?
"The increased cortisol level induces likelihood of infection during the holidays," said Dr. Robert Hasty, assistant professor of internal medicine at Nova Southeastern University's medical school.
Cortisol is a natural hormone that responds to stress, lowering immunity and making you more susceptible to infections.”
How can you keep your immune system strong? One way is by managing the stress in your life. Best selling author and health and wellness expert Deborah King gives 10 Suggestions for managing stress during the holidays.
1. You can’t do everything (and you shouldn’t have to).
Consumer culture is designed to make you feel like you’ve failed if your holiday isn’t perfectly choreographed and ready for a Martha Stewart magazine spread, but you are just one person! This doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel, but rather understand that you may not be able to plan the company holiday party, bake pumpkin pies for the whole neighborhood, and hand-make all your gifts. Delegate where you can, take a few shortcuts, and generally give yourself a break this year.
2. Manage expectations.
Nothing will be perfect, so don’t expect it to be. Trying to meet unrealistic expectations is a recipe for disappointment, so don’t let the little snafus get you down. People might be late, drinks might spill, and gifts may not arrive on time, but the unpredictability is what makes it fun. Try to set manageable goals you know you can accomplish, but also allow yourself to be flexible and spontaneous.
3. Take time to recharge.
You need some alone time each day during this busy season to decompress. Go for a walk, play with a pet, take a bath, make a snow angel, meditate, whatever calms your mind, body, and soul. Even if it’s just five minutes, take a break from the hustle and bustle to recharge.
4. Reevaluate your holiday routines.
Is there a holiday tradition that you dread each year? If you find yourself wondering why you are still doing an activity that doesn’t bring you joy or fulfillment, it may be time to let it go. With a jam-packed season, why waste time on something that is no longer rewarding?
Meditation is always an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but during this time of year, meditationbecomes even more vital to your sanity. My recommendation is twenty minutes twice a day and this is the one time of year you don’t want to skip it. Trust me, you will feel calmer and happier.
6. Get enough sleep.
Sleep is underrated most of the year, but now, when sickness spreads easily and stress is high, sleep is essential medicine. Seven to eight or even nine hours a night will keep your immune system strong, your focus sharp, and your mood more stable. Getting enough sleep will also help you combat sugar and carb cravings so you can avoid overeating.
7. Give from the heart.
The true spirit of the season is about giving rather than receiving, and true giving comes from the heart. Anyone can plop down a credit card, but thoughtful, heart-felt gifts are always more appreciated and memorable. Consider giving to a children’s charity or hospital, or give your time and volunteer. Knowing you are helping others and making their holidays brighter is more rewarding than anything you could possibly get.
8. Give the gift of forgiveness.
This is the season for friendship and families, but that doesn’t mean hurt feelings or resentments suddenly disappear. Holding grudges hurts you more than the other person, so for both your sakes, give the gift of forgiveness this year.
9. Practice kindness.
Being kind to others isn’t just for the holidays, but this is a time to focus on radiating that kindness far and wide. Give up your perfect parking place at the mall, help someone carry their packages across the store, and be sure to say thank you to the clerks, wait staff, and flight attendants who help you out this season. A smile and kind words are always in season.
10. Get in the spirit.
The spirit of the season is about light and spreading that light to others. So take some time to think about what this holiday means to you on a deeper, spiritual level. Keeping your larger purpose in mind will help you focus on what’s really important to you and allow you to release everything else.
Deborah goes on to suggest that “The holidays are what you make of them. Have fun, let go of guilt and obligation, keep your sense of humor, and be grateful that you have been given the gift of another year on this planet to experience laughter, light, and love.”