Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Stress levels are rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the numerous disruptions in our daily lives.
The American Psychological Association recently reported that “we are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.” And it’s not just adults who are feeling it. The report reveals that our children are “facing unprecedented uncertainty, are experiencing elevated stress, and are already reporting symptoms of depression.”
Although a modest amount of stress is normal, high levels of stress can be dangerous to your health and may contribute to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression. Therefore, make sure to keep a close eye on your well-being and the well-being of your loved ones during the holidays.
It’s true, there is no magic bullet to make stress disappear forever, but we can take action to help reduce stress. Here is a list of tips that may reduce your stress and lead to a more enjoyable holiday season.
• Learn to recognize your holiday stress triggers and relievers. Financial pressures and personal demands are two common triggers. Also, beware of unhealthy stress relievers. Holiday stress may cause some people to fall into bad habits such as smoking, drinking or eating too much.
• Give yourself a break. While doing things for others, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves. If you feel stress building up, take a break for a few minutes. Listening to calming music, taking time to watch a movie, or just getting away to take a brief walk can give you time to unwind and recharge.
• Make time for your health. In the holiday rush, don’t let your well-being fall by the wayside. Try to stay on your normal sleep schedule, incorporate healthy foods and get regular exercise. If you can’t find a 30-minute chunk of time for exercise, break it up into three 10-minute sessions spread throughout the day.
• Check your health plan benefits. Some insurers, such as UnitedHealthcare, offer behavioral health care programs that can range from caring for your mental health to treatment for substance abuse, with a goal of helping improve your overall well-being. For example, Sanvello offers clinically validated techniques and tools to reduce stress, anxiety and depression within a single app. Sanvello is free to download from the app stores and you can do an instant eligibility check in the app.
• Enjoy, even if it’s virtually. In the flurry of holiday activities, we sometimes forget what we’re celebrating, so remember to savor the time with people you love. If you or others you know are unable to meet in person, use a phone or set up a Zoom call to celebrate and spend time together. It’s important to minimize any feelings of isolation.
• Talk to your doctor. If it feels like you’re not able to get a handle on your stress, talk to your doctor. She or he may recommend a counselor who could help you find other ways to help reduce or manage the unhealthy stress in your life.
Ann Marie O’Brien, R.N., is the National Director of Health Engagement Strategies, UnitedHealthcare located in Cypress. For more health and wellness information, visit uhc.com.