November is National Stress Awareness Month and Americans are feeling ‘sick’. What’s keeping you up at night? Chances are it’s some form of stress which shows itself via insomnia, anxiety, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
But many are living a lifestyle where they never get off the hamster wheel. The heightened stress level starts to feel almost normal. The adrenaline blow which is nature’s alarm system warning us to fight or flee starts to function erratically.
The Mayo clinic says “when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.” They add, “The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including: anxiety, depression, heart disease, obesity, memory and concentration impairment, and digestive problems.”
Kelly Walsh, 20 year human resource veteran, president of 1SmartLife and author of the Teeter Totter Conundrum, says now is the time to manage stress before the holiday craze.
Holidays can certainly ratchet up the stress. But the good news is that everyone is in the same boat. A way to keep balance is to plan ahead. For example you know that this same stress is coming every year. So it shouldn’t surprise you. First prioritize the “nice to haves” from the “must haves”. Some people make 12 kinds of cookies because that’s what they always do and hand write cards every year. Well that’s nice but not if it sends you over the edge. So first I’d draw boundaries with yourself. Cut out what isn’t necessary. Say NO to 5 things that are on your usual list.
Next, give yourself some strategically placed days off before the holidays if you can. Maybe a Tuesday where you won’t have to work 12 extra hours to get it off. Just be out a day…be back Wednesday and use that day to shop alone or whatever you can do that will knock things off your list.
The main thing is to remember that what most people are truly craving during the holidays is connection with others. Make sure your activities are moving you in the direction of connection not perfection!
People can learn to manage stress and lead happier, healthier lives. Here are some tips to help you keep stress at bay:
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
- Be assertive instead of aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi.
- Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.