We’re in what’s often dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year,” and you may agree. Still, extra pressure can get mixed into the holiday season and test even the jolliest person.
Besides the usual decorating, shopping, baking and social obligations, this year there’s ongoing concern about avoiding COVID-19, RSV and seasonal flu. At times, the holidays can be as stressful as they are festive.
But it’s important to try to manage the stress that pops up, as prolonged, high levels of it may add to health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Digestive issues
Consider these tips from Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual:
Know your time and spending limits. To avoid a busy schedule that may have you feeling overwhelmed, learn to say no to some invitations. In cases where you can’t, try to find something else that can come off your calendar, so you don’t overextend yourself. Financial pressures can cause stress during and after the holidays. Set a realistic budget and stick to it. If money is tight, find low- and no-cost ways to show appreciation for the people in your life.
Give yourself a break. While you’re focused on doing special things for others, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. If you feel tension or worry building up, spend a little time on something you love about the season, such as watching a holiday movie, enjoying a cup of cocoa or checking out neighborhood decorations. Giving yourself even 15 minutes to unwind may help you recharge and feel better.
- Count your blessings. Find time and creative ways to focus on things for which you are grateful. For example, instead of letting a long line at a store feel like a hassle, use the wait as a chance to reflect on the good things that have already happened that day. Research has shown that a focus on gratitude can help to reduce stress.
- Don't abandon good habits. A healthy lifestyle may also help you make it through the holiday rush. Try to stick to your normal sleep schedule, get regular exercise, eat nutrient-rich meals and be cautious about how often and how much you drink. Going overboard may add stress and guilt — and possibly extra pounds to deal with at resolution time. — and possibly extra pounds to deal with at resolution time.
- Access your health benefits. If you continue to struggle, consider talking to your primary care provider or using other resources available through your health plan. Insurers like UnitedHealthcare offer behavioral health solutions that range from care for your mental health to treatment for substance use disorder. Get details on your health plan’s website or app — or call the number on your member ID card.
Heading into the holidays with a plan for handling stress may be the best gift you can give yourself and the people who’ll share the season with you.