Stressed? Overwhelmed? Welcome to the holiday season! If you’re besieged with unending to-do lists, remember, you’re not alone. It’s normal to experience holiday stress. It’s how you deal with the stress that counts. Long-term stress, often exacerbated by the holidays, can result in conditions such as increased blood pressure and blood glucose levels as well as damaged blood vessels — all of which can lead to heart issues. Try these tips to help you manage holiday stress.
To deal with stress during the holidays — and throughout the year — it’s important to establish a stress-reducing routine now, and carry that throughout the winter, spring, summer, fall …
3 tips for a healthier “you” during the holidays and beyond:
1. Practice mindfulness meditation. Take a few minutes several times a day to meditate. Meditation is proven to improve focus and reduce anxiety and chronic pain as well as reduce the effects of chronic stress to improve health and well-being. Meditation comes in many different forms. With mindful mediation, you train your mind to be present by simply focusing on the breath, which quiets the mind and increases awareness.
2. Include daily activity. A daily dose of exercise can reduce feelings of stress. Try tai chi or qigong” (pronounced chee-gung), two mind-body practices that originated in ancient China and have become popular in the West. Many tai chi and qigong practitioners report heightened feelings of well-being along with a variety of other health benefits, including enhanced sleep, reduced pain and stiffness, improved strength and balance and improved blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.
3. Simplify your life. Don’t try to pack too much into your holiday prep plans, and realize that the things that absolutely must get done for the holidays somehow do get done. Slow down and live a more balanced, deliberate and thoughtful life. And, as research increasingly shows, a healthier life as well.
Think of your healthy routine as the gift you give yourself this holiday season.You’ll arrive at the New Year feeling encouraged and motivated to keep up the good work. As part of the holiday season, consider the gift of good health for yourself or others.
The U-M Metabolic Fitness Program accepts new patients each month who are particularly interested in optimizing their lifestyle to prevent heart diseases, stroke and diabetes.
Take the next step:
- Check out more stress-reducing techniques.
Susan Ryskamp, MS, RDN, is a senior dietitian and cardiovascular nutritionist with the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. She is also a trained health coach in behavior change, including stress management and quitting smoking. She provides nutritional counseling to help people reduce disease risk and improve health. She is responsible for individual and group outpatient medical nutrition therapy as part of the dynamic cardiovascular team committed to making a difference.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.