For women in charge of putting together their family's holiday celebrations, the stress associated with buying presents, planning parties and preparing meals can really take a toll.
Increased work and anxiety associated with holiday preparations between Thanksgiving and New Years can put women at risk for anything from exhaustion and irritability to more serious concerns like heart problems. According to the American Psychological Association, women report higher levels of stress than men during the holiday season, likely because they shoulder more of the work. For any women expecting to have a busy end of the year, taking measures to reduce stress is important for minimizing the risk of any health issues.
Life-threatening Heart Problems
One reason holiday stress can be so potentially dangerous is that it can cause spikes in blood pressure, according to Daily Health. This can lead to much more serious heart problems, and women trying to do too much during the season need to be very cognizant of their stress levels.
Daily Health reported that Dr. Karla Kurrelmeyer, a cardiologist at the Heat and Vascular Center in Houston Methodist Hospital said of this problem, "We have seen more than a few cases of stress-induced cardiomyopathy around the holidays. This occurs when women are under great amounts of stress for a short period of time,"
Stress hormones can weaken the heart's main pumping faculties, and increased strain on the heart and body can lead to complications like trouble breathing, chest-pain or heart palpitations, especially for women over the age of 50. Kurrelmeyer told Daily Health that taking time to relax and mitigate any anxiety is important for lowering stress and avoiding any potentially dangerous heart problems.
Activities like yoga and meditation are helpful relaxation tools, and light exercise like a leisurely walk or jog is beneficial as well. According to Healthy Women, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is also important for minimizing stress, and being proactive about planning holiday preparations can go a long way as well.
Along with the risk of heart problems, Healthy Women reported that women may suffer from stress-induced exhaustion, restlessness, over-eating or even depression during the holiday season. Being mindful of this stress and finding ways to relax during December is important for minimizing health complications, but there are other ways women with especially extravagant plans can help themselves this year.
According to Healthy Women, lowering expectations is an easy way to avoid stress in the first place. The holidays are about being thankful and celebrating family, not necessarily about presents and meticulous decorations.
Likewise, women shouldn't feel responsible for getting everything done by themselves. Co-opting children, friends or a significant other to help with shopping, cleaning or cooking will lower your workload and can be a great bonding activity as well. When entertaining, don't be afraid to ask guests to bring side dishes or drinks, and even consider throwing a smaller get-together in the first place.
Being proactive is also very important for keeping holiday stress at bay. Consulting a calendar and planning ahead for everything from shopping to cooking helps to visualize the season's workload and can add structure.
Healthy Women reported that staying organized and using past holiday experiences to develop the best plan of attack is a good way for women to avoid feeling overwhelmed and still manage to complete all of their goals.
Women who find ways to lower their workload and bring order to the otherwise hectic season still need to exercise and to relax throughout December. The APA reported that men and women use television and over-eating as coping mechanisms during the holidays, and unhealthy habits during the season can complicate adverse stress symptoms. Staying proactive about planning and monitoring your health during the end of the year is critical for women.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living