Holiday Stress: Bad for Holidays and Health

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Avoiding Holiday Meltdowns

While experts don't think acute holiday stress will necessarily cause any serious health consequences, over the long term, stress can start to have a negative effect on the heart. And it can really make what should be a joyful time of year pretty miserable.

"If you don't learn to control your stress, you can alienate relatives and create unpleasantness in relationships with people you love," said Dr. Redford Williams, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

In order to ease their holiday stress, experts advise people to really make time to relax, take a few deep breaths and put things into perspective.

"Just stopping and reflecting for a few minutes will help to lower adrenaline and cortisol levels," said Ragno.

"Take a few minutes when you can to relax and appreciate what the holidays are about," said Rego. "Watch the joy in children's faces, watch an old movie or listen to a holiday song."

"The world's not going to end if something doesn't get done," said Williams.

People should also eat well and make time to exercise, since overindulging and putting off workouts until it's time for New Year's resolutions are common.

To prevent an unwanted meltdown, experts say there are some signs to watch out for that you may be about to have one.

"If you're not able to sleep, if you find yourself waking up at 4 a.m. because you can't sleep, if you find yourself drinking too much and behaving in ways that really aren't like you, you should really take a step back and say that things are getting out of hand," said Williams.

The holidays are supposed to be about kindness and generosity, and people most often neglect to extend these courtesies to those who need them most -- themselves.

"You should treat yourself kindly and unburden yourself for the holidays," said Williams.

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