By Tabitha Andrus, Education Intern from Saginaw Valley State University
While the holidays are known as the most wonderful time of the year, they can also be the most stressful. During the holidays we tend to become more stressed because of our reaction to the increase in demands put on us. Nobody wants the stress, yet we are all confronted with it. Holiday stress can have a big impact on us, especially on our immune system. The good news is, there are several ways you can manage holiday stress so you can truly enjoy the holidays this year!
Stress and the Impact on Your Immune System
We have all experienced a time where we were stressed. The question is, why do we get stressed? Stress is actually our body’s natural defense reacting to a demand or threat, known as our stress response. Our stress can be good for us, but bad for us at the same time. It allows us to stay focused, alert and keeps us on our toes. However, after a certain point, it begins to be bad for our health, including our immune system.
When we are stressed, our immune system can’t fully fight off toxins or other foreign substances known as antigens. Our immune system is composed of billions of cells, which include lymphocytes. Lymphocytes produce antibodies to destroy bacteria, by locking onto the infected cell, multiplying, and destroying it. Corticosteroid, the stress hormone, suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes. This makes us more vulnerable to infections. This is why we want to stress less this holiday. We want to have a strong immune system that is ready to fight off foreign substances!
How to Manage Stress to Have a Healthy Holiday
- Take a break.
Sometimes, the best thing for you is to slow down and take a break. Give yourself time to take a deep breath and focus on the present and not everything else going on.
- Make a plan.
While the holiday season is wonderful, it can also be the busiest. A way to manage this busy season is by making a plan or a list. Write down what you have to do for the day or the week. This allows your brain to have a break. Also, this makes it so you know exactly what you have to do or where you have to be so you don’t miss a thing!
- Make your wellbeing and health a priority.
Taking care of yourself is important because it will allow you to handle stressful situations better. This includes getting enough sleep each night, exercising regularly, and eating right.
- Say no.
The holiday season is the hardest time to say no to someone, especially someone you love. Conversely, if you repetitively say yes to big and small things, you will end up feeling overwhelmed and resentful. If saying no is not an option, try to make a compromise. This allows everyone to win and will help you be less overwhelmed.
- Share responsibilities.
Traditions help make a holiday special, however, it can put a lot of responsibility on you. This year, let people take over some traditions or take more responsibility to help you. In the end, this may bring you closer to the ones you love because they can spend more time with you by helping with the traditions and responsibilities.
Let’s put these 5 tips to use and manage our holiday stress this season to keep our immune system strong!!