Tis the Season to Be Jolly (and Stressed)

Tis the season to be jolly . . .  yet, you may be asking, “Why am I not feeling great?” The holiday season is upon us – in full force. Everyone is looking forward to the festivities – and your stress level increases with every passing day The joy factor seems to be elusive.

It is an undeniable fact that stress has an impact on people and their lives. Most people are aware (at least to some degree) that stress can affect you emotionally and physically; but, are you aware that it can also affect your behavior.

Since you may be struggling with heavy stress right now, it would be wise to review the effects that stress can have on you and your life.

Emotional Effects

There are a variety of ways stress can impact your emotions, but the most common include:
•    Increased mood swings
•    Easily irritated
•    Easily angered
•    High anxiety, or worry
•    Constantly feeling overwhelmed
•    Depressed

Do any of those sound familiar?

When you consider the emotional reactions to stress described above it should be no surprise that stress can cause people to over-react to small issues. This also explains why tempers are short and family dissension is not uncommon during the holiday season.

Physical Effects

Physical effects of stress can be immediate and short-lived or develop into chronic conditions if the stress if not alleviated or at least managed.

With seasonal stress the most common effects would be:

  • Headaches – These are most commonly referred to as “tension headaches,” or TTH. They are thought to be the result of muscle tension and circulatory fluctuations within the body.
  • Digestive Disorders – When stressed out, people often say their stomach is “in knots.” If this goes on for long periods of time it can cause anything from abdominal pain and discomfort – and eventually to much worse with problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Sleep Disruption – This can create ongoing fatigue that contributes to more stress.

Longer term physical effects of chronic stress include:

  • Weight Gain – People deal with stress differently and while some people don’t eat when they are stressed, many people tend to eat and eat and eat, which can easily lead to weight gain.  The long-term consequence of this is unsightly fat around the abdominal area commonly referred to as “stress fat” that can be difficult to lose.
  • Insomnia – Stress can often lead to a lack of sleep, or insomnia, for many people.
  • Hair Loss – Believe it or not, chronic stress can lead to hair loss.
  • Heart Disease – The body’s heart and circulatory system can easily be disrupted by chronic stress. In extreme cases, it can cause dysfunction and even disease.
  • Chronic Pain – In addition to headaches mentioned above, common forms of stress-related chronic pain include: joint pain, back pain, and neck pain.
  • Weakened Immune System – Constant stress takes a huge toll on your body. It wears it out and can result in a weakened immune system, leaving you vulnerable to disease and multiple health problems.

Behavioral Effects

Most often, stress causes individuals to act differently, or change their normal behavior. This is true for both children and adults.

The most common changes include:

  • Verbal or physical abuse (toward humans and/or animals)
  • Excessive anger
  • Gambling
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Increased spending
  • Secluding oneself
  • Withdrawal from activities previously enjoyed
  • Staying up/Sleeping late

Stress is ever-present in our lives and during the holiday season it tends to increase. However, if you pay attention to how you are feeling (emotionally and physically) and how you are behaving, you can manage the effects of stress – if you choose to.

Don’t let it manage you and ruin the holidays for you and your family.

Happy Holidays!

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