Many people experience extra stress during the holidays
Unrealistic expectations and overbooked calendars are contributors to holiday stress
Stress can impact emotional, mental, and physical health and make it harder to enjoy the holidays
Avoid and relieve holiday stress by setting intentions, planning ahead, practicing self-care, and/or incorporating a stress supplement†
If holidays leave you feeling exhausted, frazzled, and like there simply aren't enough hours in the day, you’re probably not a stranger to holiday stress. Like traffic jams and deadlines, the holidays are stressful events for some people.
The extra stress of the holidays can increase your body’s production of stress hormones, which can impact your energy levels and immune system and make it harder to enjoy traditions and festivities. You don’t have to survive the season feeling stressed, though. We’ve rounded up some of the best holiday stress tips to help you make the most of the holiday season.
Why Managing Holiday Stress Matters
With so much to do, see, and spend on, the joy and fun of the holiday season can quickly be replaced with overwhelm and dread. Managing holiday stress is important not only for enjoying the holidays but also for your health.
When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases more of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.  These hormones activate your sympathetic nervous system and prepare you for a “fight or flight” response.
What does that mean in terms of how you feel during the holidays? The stress response can change how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally [2, 3].
Some symptoms of holiday stress include: [2, 3]
Occassional changes in appetite and digestion
Fatigue or lack of energy
Interrupted or lack of sleep which may affect your immune system
If you feel stressed more often than not, the demands of the holidays only add to your load. Chronic stress can increase the risk of developing other health conditions. 
Feeling some degree of stress during the holidays may not be entirely avoidable, but below are some planning and tips for managing holiday stress:
5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress
While the holidays and main source(s) of stress look different for everyone, there are some general guidelines that can help you find stress relief.
Here are 5 tips to avoid holiday stress:
1. Manage expectations.
Between movies, greeting cards, and people’s highlight reels on social media, we’re often sold the idea of creating a picture-perfect holiday. Not to mention the pressure of having to juggle the holiday expectations of others, including family members, friends, and coworkers.
The truth is, you can’t do it all or please everyone. Holding yourself to unrealistic expectations is a surefire way to bring on holiday stress.
Before the holidays are in full swing, take some time to check in with your expectations for the season. Consider how you want to feel during the holidays, what’s realistic, and what parts of the holiday you value most. Share your thoughts with loved ones so they know where you’re coming from and what to expect.
Your needs are important and you deserve the holiday you desire. It may sound simple, but approaching the holidays with intention—and revisiting your expectations and values as needed—can help guide your day-to-day choices and tame seasonal stress.
Once you know what’s most important to you about the holidays, you can use that framework to plan your holiday calendar.
Start by making a list of non-negotiables, or the things you absolutely want to participate in, and schedule time on your calendar to make sure they happen. This could include favorite holiday traditions, outings, and events.
Don’t forget to block off time for holiday errands, like grocery and gift shopping. If your budget allows, consider online shopping and grocery delivery services to free up more time.
Prioritizing your holiday musts will make it easier to turn down any activities you feel lukewarm about. By the way, saying no can be a huge stress relief. If your idea of a holiday break is relaxing at home, don’t feel obligated to accept every holiday invitation that comes your way.
3. Focus on nutrition.
Feeding yourself well can go a long way in helping you manage stress. Think about it: how focused or present do you feel when you’re hungry or after a big meal? Chances are, you’re not feeling your best in those moments.
Do your best not to skip meals and stick to three meals plus snacks each day. A regular eating pattern offers several benefits, including: 
provides the energy your body needs to handle holiday stress
keeps blood sugar steady
helps you eat a nutritious and varied diet that includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins
helps reduce cravings for less healthy foods
make it less likely you’ll overeat due to hunger or stress
Prepping meals ahead of time can help to avoid holiday stress.
Your beverage choices also matter and water is your best bet. An extra coffee to power you through your holiday to-do’s might seem like a good idea, but too much caffeine can keep you up at night and contribute to feeling on edge and overwhelmed .
It’s also a good idea to limit holiday cocktails. Too much alcohol can contribute to added sugar intake, holiday weight gain, interfere with getting a good night’s rest, and impact mood, energy levels, and immune system function [6, 7].
Exercise is a crucial part of stress relief. Moving your body releases endorphins and helps lower stress hormones , which can help you feel more relaxed and happier . Exercise is also a great way to distract your mind from whatever is causing you stress.
The health benefits of exercise apply to any form of movement that you enjoy and have time for. Whether you like hitting the gym, trying new fitness classes, walking in nature, swimming, or playing a sport, make time to move.
Holiday stress happens, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay stressed 24/7. When you find yourself feeling stretched thin, take it as a reminder to slow down and refocus.
Doing something restful or fun can help stop stress in its tracks. Take a nap, go for a walk, watch a favorite show, dance to holiday records, meditate, take deep breaths, or read a few pages of a book to help you reset and relax.
If you’re doing all of the above and feel like you need additional support, a stress supplement that contains ingredients that can help your body handle stress, such as Ashwagandha or Magnesium, may help.†
Holidays are stressful, but they’re also meant to be enjoyed. It’s up to you to define what you want your holidays to look like and what brings you the most cheer this time of year. Approaching the holiday season with intention and boundaries can help manage holiday stress and expectations.
Caring for yourself with good nutrition and exercise can also help you navigate seasonal stress. If you’re still having a hard time managing stress or have questions about stress supplements, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider.
Sharon Lehman, RD is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a health writer. She specializes in intuitive eating, recipe development, food photography, and hormone health. She shares healthy living tips and recipes on her blog www.heartandstove.com
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