5 things to help decrease holiday stress: a survival guide

The holidays are a great time of year to enjoy family, friends and holiday meals. It’s a time filled with things to do and places to go. For most of us, this busy time of year can also be stressful – and given the importance we place on family meals, it’s easy to overindulge in food and drink.

Know your limits when it comes to rich foods and alcohol – your body will thank you!

Here are five tips to minimize stress and stay healthy during the holidays.

1. Manage stress.

Stress affects our health. It can lead to anxiety and also trigger an immune response that makes us more vulnerable to disease. But the holidays don’t need to take a toll on your health. Don’t overdo it; pace yourself and don’t overcommit. And try to stay relaxed. Get plenty of sleep. (The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers advice on improving sleep.)

2. Avoid heartburn and GERD.

Heartburn and GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can be avoided by staying away from eating large meals; avoiding or minimizing your intake of caffeinated beverages, alcohol and citrus drinks; staying away from your “trigger” foods, such as fatty or greasy foods; and by not eating late at night or just before bedtime.

3. Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all.

If you drink alcohol, one to two glasses per day has health benefits. Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Moderate drinking has been linked to improvements in cardiovascular health. Red wine, for example, contains flavonoids that have beneficial antioxidant properties.

According to the CDC, for men, “heavy drinking” is typically defined as 15 drinks or more a week. For women, it’s typically defined as 8 drinks or more a week. The long-terms effects of heavy drinking include significant health risks, so if you’re a regular drinker it’s smart to know and stay within set daily and weekly limits. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans drinks excessively, a recent CDC study found.

4. Handle and prepare food safely.

As you prepare holiday meals, keep yourself and your family safe from food-related illness. Few things are worse than illnesses during the holiday season. Simple steps from the CDC include:
Don’t cross-contaminate one food with another. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator, and be sure to use the plastic bags available in the meat and produce sections of the supermarket. Refrigerate promptly.
Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for raw meat, poultry and seafood; never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.

5. Wash your hands often.

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water, rubbing them for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based wipe or hand gel.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.

Be well, stay well!

~ Pharmacist Andy

Andy Stergachis, Ph.D., R.Ph.

Andy Stergachis is the Director of the Global Medicines Program at the University of Washington in Seattle and a subject expert on public health and pharmacy-related topics.