With the holidays right around the corner, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of family gatherings, shopping and parties. Holidays can take a toll – especially on your heart. The holidays are supposed to be carefree, but in fact, holiday stress can increase the risk of heart disease. In more than a few cases of stress-induced cardiomyopathy are seen around the holiday season.
Stress-induced cardiomyopathy happens when stress hormones weaken the heart’s main pumping chamber. It’s most common in women in their late 50s to mid-70s. Someone experiencing this condition might develop chest pains or shortness of breath. Everyone experiences stress at some point in their lives, but it is important for the sake of your health to learn how to handle it. Here are five heart-healthy tips for fighting stress this holiday season.
- Set realistic expectations. Decide what is most important and adjust our expectations and priorities accordingly. What do you absolutely need to get done? What would you really like to do, as opposed to what you feel you “should” do? Learn to say no to an invitation if you would rather spend a quiet night at home. Buy cookies if you don’t have time to do it yourself.
- Make a plan. Use a calendar to plan your activities so you can easily see where you need to be and when, and minimize the stress of being rushed or overbooked. Include downtime for yourself. Block off an hour or two with no commitments, so you can do whatever you’d like, or nothing at all.
- Take advantage of technology. Skip the crowds and traffic, and shop online. Send personalized electronic greeting cards. Visit with long-distance friends and family via FaceTime.
- Celebrate in moderation. Between special events, dinner parties and treats at work, the holidays can serve up a tempting array of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt—none of which are good for your heart. Obesity, too, is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Treat yourself, but don’t overdo it. Have a healthy snack before a dinner party and start with small servings – you can always go back for more.
- Stay active. When your schedule is packed, exercising often is one of the first things to go. Don’t skip your workouts and tell yourself that you will make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Staying active during the holidays is more important than making a plan to become active afterward. Getting just 30 minutes of exercise a day, such as a walk, jog or bicycle ride, has important cardiovascular benefit and can help reduce your stress level as well. Break it up into 10-minute chunks if that makes it easier.