Stressful Season: The Health Impacts of Stress and What You Can Do to Fight It

With the holiday season well underway, stress is a common phenomenon this time of year. Gift-giving, meeting the in-laws, heading to holiday party after holiday party, and financial struggles can all contribute to stress! Stress can manifest itself as headaches, insomnia, and decreased focus–but how can you keep it in check? Learn what fear looks like, how to manage it on your own, and when to ask for help (because there’s no shame in that!)

What Does Stress Look Like?

Stress can lead to stomach problems, sleep problems, aches and pains, and fatigue. It can also impact your mood, too–heightened anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, anger, and depression all come when you stress too much. If you find yourself gritting your teeth, tensing up, or biting at your lips or tongue, you’re too stressed! Stress can also change your behavior: if you’re eating too much or too little, withdrawing socially, or consuming more drugs or alcohol than usual, you are likely experiencing high levels of stress.

How Can I Manage Stress?

If you’re finding yourself tense, angry, and tired this season, try managing your stress at home! Exercise, meditation, and eating well, three things you can do to be healthier, are also great for your anxiety and your mental well-being. Anything you can do to take your mind off of your stresses is great to help manage stress, but there are a few honorable mentions. Keep reading to find out what those are!

Instead of picking up an exercise habit in January, try heading to the gym in December. Exercise is one of the best ways to relax your body and improve your mood. Ideally, you should be exercising for 75 minutes a week. Cardio that gets your heart rate up, like jogging, biking, or swimming is some of the best for this. Setting small but achievable goals can also give you a mental boost when you hit them, making this tip doubly good for your well-being!

Relaxing your muscles can also be a great way to reduce your stress levels. Whether it’s through a massage, a hot shower, some yoga, or just by stretching at home, relaxing your muscles can take some of the stings out of the physical manifestations of stress. If you’re looking for motivation or guidance on how to stretch, there are apps, YouTube videos, and other guides across the Internet.

Taking breaks in the office, during social events, and at home can help you keep your stress in check. Taking five minutes to head to the bathroom during the middle of a party, going to bed a little earlier at home, or walking to the water cooler and back can help you keep your mind off of any stress. Taking just five or 10 minutes to give yourself a pep talk, straighten your hair, and make a few deep breaths can do a lot to help you mitigate any stressors.

Spending time on your hobbies can also be essential for your well-being. Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your knitting, golf, or catching up on your favorite TV show! Even spending 20 minutes a day on your hobby can have positive effects on your health and well-being.

When Should I Get Help?

If you can’t point to stress as the cause of your symptoms, or if they’ve gotten worse after attempts to manage them, talk to your doctor. If you know, it’s stress, and it doesn’t seem to get better, reach out to a therapist or another mental health professional. If you have chest pain, or if your drug and alcohol use hits unhealthy levels, seek help immediately.

Have any stress-related questions? Want to learn more about mental health? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

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