FROM DOCTOR TO PATIENT
DR. JUSTIN ADAMS
The holidays are just around the corner, bringing with them their usual blend of magic, merriment and mayhem. With so much sparkle and shine, it’s easy to get overwhelmed! But this year, start early and prepare to reduce holiday stress.
Think of holiday stress-busting as a personal prescription; after all, stress really can make you sick. Your body is designed to protect you from stress; just not constant, never-ending stress!
Here’s how: when you encounter a perceived threat – for instance, you see a shadow that frightens you – your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. It’s known as the “fight or flight” response.
When that perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. However, if stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. This can put you at increased risk for numerous health problems, including anxiety, depression, weight gain, stomach aches…starting to sound familiar? That’s why you need to learn healthy ways to deal with deal with stress, which can hit its peak during the holidays.
Here are a few ways to start:
Keep a master calendar. Surprises are great – just not at 4 p.m. Keep your commitments organized in one place, so you know when you have that choir dress rehearsal or have to get those bake-sale brownies to school.
Remember that saying “No” is OK. All you can do is all you can do. If you’re starting to feel frazzled, take a minute before you agree to one more commitment. Can you really take on one more project? Yes, the holiday spirit is a wonderful thing, but so is your health.
Don’t skimp on self-care. You can’t give from an empty vessel. It’s great to give, so make sure you give to yourself this season. Keep a normal routine. A few cookies and treats here and there are OK, but do try to keep a healthy diet. Take a walk – research shows that physical activity not only boosts your fitness and energy levels but it can also elevate your moods.
Just…breathe. Whenever you start feeling overwhelmed, step away from whatever is stressing you out. Take quick relaxation breaks of one to five minutes to calm yourself down. Conscious, slow breathing can help you when you’re feeling frustrated, wherever you are.
Do something small. Yep, small. When you start getting that stressed-out feeling, do a small activity that really makes you happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s making tea, reading a magazine or just taking a nap. If it makes you happy, try to work more of that activity into your schedule, especially during the holidays. You’ll feel better, and your mind and body will thank you.
Trenton resident Dr. Justin Adams, D.O., is a Henry Ford Wyandotte family physician with an office in Allen Park. His wife, Dr. Nicole Taurence Adams, D.O., was born and raised in Trenton. She is a resident working in the emergency room at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.