Is it really “the most wonderful time of the year”?
For a time of year that’s supposed to be one of the happiest, the holidays have the potential to cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Family conflicts, packed schedules, and gift-giving are just the tip of the stress iceberg. (That’s not even counting these 7 reasons the holidays give you anxiety.) But learning how to get through the holiday gauntlet without losing your mind isn’t just nice, it’s essential, says Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in private practice in Lancaster, California. “High stress means your body is constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode, which can be damaging to your health in the long run,” she explains, adding that stress is linked to many health problems ranging from the common cold to obesity. “But when you trigger the relaxation response, your parasympathetic nervous system takes over and helps you rest, digest, and repair yourself.” So be happy and healthy this holiday season you need to start by taking care of yourself. Here’s how.
Get adequate sleep
It’s no secret that our bodies crave rest; fail to get enough, and you’ll have some nasty symptoms. Not only does adequate rest—at least seven to eight hours per night (for most people)—recharge your body for the day ahead, it also gives your nervous system a chance to wind down and reset as well. For those who suffer from anxiety symptoms, a lack of sleep can make you much more anxious. No one wants that kind of stress around the holidays, says Shanon Makekau, MD, chief of pulmonology and sleep medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii. “When life gets hectic, the first thing that typically gets sacrificed is sleep,” she says. “But poor sleep can lead to impaired immunity, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and [type 2] diabetes. Prioritize good sleep, including naps, if you need them.” Go ahead and go to bed early—chances are you’ll be better able to handle whatever comes your way in the morning.