How to Reduce Holiday Stress…and Chances of a Heart Attack

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While the holidays are meant to be a time of joy, they can also be a time of stress. Many may experience conflict, pressure or just feeling overwhelmed by expectations surrounding the holidays. Busy schedules, looming deadlines, plans to spend more money and the pressure of gift giving are a number of factors that can contribute to stress during the holiday season.

 

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, there is an increase in the amount of heart attacks and heart-related deaths during the holiday season, which may be due to stress, delays in seeking medical care, and holiday foods rich in fat, sugar, and salt.*

 

“Stress can cause short- and long-term effects on the body, and it is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity,” said Dr. Jarrod Frizzell, a cardiologist with St. Vincent Evansville, part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.  “It’s important that we monitor our stress levels, particularly during the holidays, and find ways to manage our stress. Pay attention to your body, and learn the warning signs of heart disease. Although the holidays are important times to spend with our family, please don’t delay seeking medical care if you experience signs or symptoms of heart problems. We want to make sure you are around for many more holidays to come.”

 

STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING HOLIDAY STRESS:

  • Limit spending
      • Set a budget to ensure all your usual expenses are accounted for, and plan for any additional holiday spending including travel plans and parties you may be hosting. Budget for what you have to spend on gifts – be organized and realistic.
      • Avoid temptation by limiting the amount of time you spend at stores or the shopping mall. Manage impulsive spending by taking a list of gifts to buy and taking only the amount of cash you need, leaving credit cards at home.
  • Manage expectations
      • Remember what is important during the holiday season to help manage your expectations. Hosting the perfect party or giving the perfect gift is less important than the quality time spent with loved ones.
      • Take some time out to recharge and refocus – be sure that you find time to relax to recharge your body and mind.
  • Avoid over-indulging
      • Excessive stress raises appetites and cravings for sugary and fatty foods, and chronic drinking can lead to increased stress levels. Aim to maintain a healthy diet during the holidays to avoid weight gain and additional stress.
      • Maintain a healthy diet by eating high-protein snacks throughout the day so you don’t over-indulge on one meal. Make simple food swaps, like eating whole-wheat bread instead of white or brown rice instead of white. And be mindful of portion sizes, especially when enjoying seasonal treats.
  • Go for a walk
      • Regular exercise can help lower stress levels by decreasing tension and boosting and stabilizing your mood. Exercise releases endorphins that can improve your ability to sleep and reduce stress.
  • Have some fun
      • Laughter stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and also releases endorphins. Laughter also goes a long way in helping to lighten your mood and minimizing the stresses associated with this time of year.

 

 

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