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Concierge Primary Care at the Pratt Diagnostic Center

Stress During the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But the holidays can also be a source of stress for many people. The kids are out of school for a week; your in-laws are visiting for an extended stay; you have gifts left to buy (and then wrap!).

For even the most organized among us, the holidays can be as overwhelming as they are joyous. The doctors, nurses and other medical professionals at Tufts Medical Center have tips to keep you healthy and sane – and enjoy every moment of your holiday traditions.

Icon person looking at a grocery aisleDon’t give up your healthy habits

Keep a few snacks on hand such as an apple, whole grain crackers with a cheese stick, or lightly salted almonds so when you’re hit with a craving or are feeling stressed and want to eat, you’re not tempted to binge. 
Exercise! Dr. Niamh Carroll says, “It is really important to carve out some time over these days to step back and try to  focus on yourself – doing something daily that you enjoy, be it an hour at a yoga class, a half hour walk or run outside, even an early night to bed! And sometimes you just have to say no to things.”
The Tufts Medical Center doctors notice that a lot of patients get run down to the point of sickness over the holidays. To get a good night’s sleep, Dr. Kim Schelling recommends limiting your afternoon caffeine consumption, switching out your last glass of wine for a tall glass of water, and practicing good “sleep hygiene”

Be proactive in avoiding anxiety

For a few minutes a day, practice being mindful, focusing only on what’s going on in the present. Instead of thinking about what’s worrying you or stressing you out, pay attention to your senses – what you see, feel, hear and smell.
“I try to get out into nature to help me refocus and let go of stress. It helps you to re-center and appreciate where you are. I find that it immediately reduces my anxiety about what might go wrong, and to understand that even if there’s a problem, all will be ok! There is nothing like a walk in the fresh air to clear your head.” – Dr. Carroll, on her strategies for stress reduction.
See the sun!  When you’re busy, it’s easy to never get outside in the daylight, but the sunlight helps reduce seasonal affective disorder.
If you have trouble setting time aside to do any of these things, the Tufts MC Social Work team members suggest setting a timer on your phone to remind you to get up and move, or take a break and relax. 

Make good use of your phone

Graphic of an ipod playing musicIt might seem counterintuitive to pull out your phone to reduce stress – there’s so much there to cause more of it! But your phone contains some great resources.

Turn on some tunes. A recent study in the Journal of Emerging Investigators showed that slow or meditative music reduces stress, so set your radio or Spotify to a soothing station during your commute.
Try some meditation! Wellforce – the health system in which Tufts Medical Center is a member – suggests some great meditation apps. Among them, Calm, an app starts out with a seven-day program and is a great way for beginners to start meditation. It allows you to choose between options for sound and length of time, as well as scenes from nature to help you visually focus while you meditate. 
Sometimes, turn it off – and put away your phone for a few hours. It will eliminate distractions and help you focus on your family and friends!

Practice gratitude

Studies show that grateful people report feeling healthier and are more likely to take care of themselves than others. Next time you are stopped in traffic or waiting in line, think of one thing you appreciate about someone in your life – and tell them the next time you see them!