Many people travel at the holidays and find their time for the holiday can be filled with laughter, good food AND stress!
Life’s stressors cause them to become irritable, short-tempered, or unable to concentrate on tasks. Others have interrupted sleep (trouble falling asleep or waking early in the morning with racing thoughts). Then there are those who react by eating junk food — and a lot of it!
Some of these stresses are dumped upon us by societies’ Norman Rockwell’s’ expectations, your families issues about how to deal with one another as adults, or the unreasonable expectations we set on the holiday ourselves to create the ‘perfect memories’ for our kids.
Easing up on yourself over the holidays is important because the connection between stress and illness is real, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and associate director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. As Rego explains, “Stress may weaken the immune system. Each cell contains a tiny “clock” called a telomere, which shortens each time the cell divides. To counter this effect, the body also produces an enzyme, telomerase, which protects the cell and prevents further shortening by adding more DNA to the end of the telomere. But under stress, the body pumps out cortisol, a hormone that suppresses this protective enzyme. The study found that people under chronic stress have shorter telomeres, which, researchers say, means they are more vulnerable to a host of ailments.”
Health effects of stress may cause serious health side effects. Take the effects of stress very seriously to reduce your risk of: Heart disease, including heart attacks. Digestive disorder flare-ups, such as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. (Try to stay true to the foods you know your body can process well). Immune disorders can flare-up if fighting multiple sclerosis or lupus. Anxiety, depression, and insomnia. If you already have a pain disorder such as arthritis, back pain, and muscle spasms, the pain may increase.
Keep your sleep routine as constant as can, or have control over. This means that staying up really late over the holidays and balancing it out by sleeping later than you typically do does not leave you rested, but rather dragging and lethargic.
Don’t forfeit your workout because your holiday schedule is super-busy. Take something off the list or get up earlier, to get at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise. It increases your energy, but also helps your mood and tolerance for stress and possible family-drama.
Enjoy social holiday foods, but keep your portions moderate. Use smaller plates if faced with a buffet-display. Have a glass of water before you sit down, and don’t take seconds from your host if you don’t really want it.
I wish you all have the holidays that you desire, and if they aren’t going that way, change your direction and make them what YOU want.
Safe travels and happy bellies!