The holiday season is supposed to be packed with delicious food, quality time spent with family and wonderful memories that we’ll look back on for years to come. Unfortunately, the real meaning of the holidays is often lost somewhere between Black Friday and the hangover on New Year’s Day, and most of us struggle to escape the stress that has come to define this supposedly merry time of year.

Stress isn’t just something we have to “deal with” and “get over.” We may cringe at the overpacked schedules jammed with parties where we have maintain strained conversation or feel the pinch for time as we throw together a meal with 20 complete with table decorations in a single afternoon, but the fact of the matter is that stress sticks with us, and it may have a negative effect on the body.

Stress results from both physical and emotional sources, and in small amounts, it can be healthy. However, overtaxing the body with stress can result in insomnia, low-level inflammation, high blood pressure, aches and pains, gastrointestinal issues and other problems. One of the most problematic side effects of stress is a weakened immune system. During periods of high stress, immune system cells disappear from the blood, and the immune system function immediately drops. During the holiday season, when a common routine is disrupted anyway, a weakened immune system leaves us particularly susceptible to germs and slows our recovery from illnesses. That is certainly no way to celebrate what should be the happiest time of the year.

There are many things people can do to manage the stress endemic to the holiday season. Be realistic about what the holidays can achieve. Bad relationships will not be mended in a day just because it’s a holiday, but you can set aside your differences for a few hours.

If you can’t cook all the food you need to prepare for a dinner party, ask for help, cook dishes in advance or buy prepared foods instead of cooking from scratch. Manage and schedule your time in advance so you aren’t rushing around at the last minute. If taking on more obligations makes you feel angry and overwhelmed, just say no.

When it comes to gift giving, set a budget and stick to it. Shop early so you aren’t forced to stand shoulder-to-shoulder at the last minute with other stressed out shoppers. And don’t scour the planet looking for the perfect gift; just ask people what they’d like to receive.

Routine and healthy habits certainly have a place during the pandemonium of the season. Continue to work out as you normally do, eat healthy meals when and where you can, get plenty of sleep and take time to yourself. And keep in mind that the chaos of the holidays will eventually come to end and, once again, things will return with a sense of normalcy.

The Specific Chiropractic Center invites you to our monthly health and wellness lecture series. Wednesday, December 14th, 6:30pm. Come learn simple tips to ensure you stay happy and healthy during the holidays!


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Mayo Clinic Staff. Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping. Retrieved November 21, 2011 from

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