The holiday season is upon us, and while efforts to entertain, shop, decorate, and socialize can make the season bright, they can also be overwhelming. The American Psychological Association reports that 8 out of 10 people experience problematic levels of stress during the holiday season, and this is even more pronounced in women.
Studies show that women are nearly twice as likely to suffer with extreme stress and anxiety, and when you sprinkle a dash of financial worry, a pinch of family conflict, and two tablespoons of an overbooked social calendar, this becomes one holiday recipe no one wants to take a bite of.
How Stress Manifests in Women
Everyone is familiar with the headaches, anxiety, or overeating that can come with increased stress, but you may not be aware that neurobiological and hormonal differences between men and women can cause our perception of and response to stress to vary significantly. While both men and women are adversely affected by prolonged or repeated exposure to stress, in women, this presents greater risk to encounter the following:
- cardiac issues, contributing to heart attack or stroke
- eating disorders
- bowel problems
- reflux or ulcers
- rash/skin disorders
- weight gain
- interruptions to normal menstrual function
- decreased sex drive
- arthritis/immune disorders
This list represents a mere fraction of what women can encounter if stress is left unchecked. Be sure that you are applying the same level of focused care and energy toward managing your own stress levels as you do creating memorable holidays for those you love. Let’s examine some helpful tips to bring down the stress and increase your peace this season.
Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress
Coping with stress is a year-round battle for some, but the holiday season presents a unique set of challenges, in that some of the stress is coming directly from the loved ones and events that can define the season. While there are a number of considerations, the following five tips will help:
- Set and stick to a budget to avoid adding financial pressure
This time of year comes with hopes of beautifully wrapped gifts and lots fun and food with friends and family – all of which can to put a drain on your finances. Investopedia reports that the average American will spend nearly $1,000.00 on gifts this year, and studies show that women more frequently report that money and economic concerns are a constant source of stress. This means you should try to set spending limits that present a balanced approach to giving to avoid causing year-round financial worry while you dig out from holiday debt.
- Set realistic expectations for holiday events before the season is underway
As women, we oftentimes have trouble saying “no” to family responsibilities. In turn, during the holidays, many of us take on the role of shopper, party planner, baker, chef, referee, host, and more! When considering everything on your holiday schedule, prioritize where and how your time will be spent before the crush of the season is here. Map out your travel, note annually recurring traditions or events, and be mindful that the best present you may be able to give yourself this year is the gift of a manageable holiday calendar!
- Get by with a little help from your friends
Use this season of outreach to connect with the positive, supportive, helpful people in your life. Engage and surround yourself with those who value your emotional well-being and offer you much needed relief through the busy holiday crush. Many helping hands make light work!
- Pick your battles
This is a tough one, to be sure. The holidays often bring prolonged exposure to family and friends whose personalities may present some friction with your own, and not everyone is terribly aware when their internal frustrations are outwardly manifesting on others. When facing these conflicts, try to find a way to agree-to-disagree and move on, and if that doesn’t work, move on yourself! Take a short walk and a deep breath to give yourself a quick break when you need it. When it comes to holiday squabbles, remember to try and manage things in small doses. Inch-by-inch, it’s a cinch—yard-by-yard it’s hard!
- Most importantly, take care of yourself!
Paying attention to your own physical and emotional needs is of critical importance to not only thrive through the holidays, but into next year and beyond.
- Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep on a regular schedule, and temporarily remove yourself from unavoidably stressful situations to give your worried mind a bit of rest.
- Exercise regularly to improve your circulation and cardio-vascular health, and to promote the release of endorphins in your brain to naturally reduce stress and improve the quality of your sleep.
- Enjoy those holiday treats, but try to keep balanced nutrition in mind. Healthy eating will provide the energy you need to elbow through those crowds or last through that long family gathering (and prevent the onset of “too-many-cookies” guilt).
- Limit your intake of alcohol before those warm fuzzies turn into dehydration and anxiety. Alcohol is a natural depressant, so while you think you may be ‘taking the edge off’, you are actually increasing your chances of feeling anxious, nervous, or depressed. Enjoy in moderation.
It also goes without saying that your levels of stress should be a consideration beyond the holiday season. Healthy eating, exercise, positive social interaction, and a focus on partnering with those who have your own health and well-being in mind should be the foundation of a happy, healthy life.
As your partner for compassionate, progressive women’s healthcare, the doctors and staff of Axia Women’s Health want to wish you and your loved ones a happy, health holiday season!