Almost half of U.S. women have higher stress during the holidays; here are a few tips to minimize it

With the holiday season come parties, shopping, entertaining, baking, decorating, gift giving, travel, holiday events, holiday cards to send, family traditions, family gatherings and the list goes on. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Or maybe not, maybe it sounds like stress.

Almost half of all women in the U.S. report experiencing higher levels of stress during the holidays, and about one-third of men do, Beth A. Collins Sharp, director, Division of Program Innovation for the Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health, writes on their blog.

And stress, she writes, can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, anxiety, obesity, abnormal heart beat, menstrual problems, and acne and other skin problems. She also notes that a recent survey found women are more likely than men to experience these physical symptoms.

Her advice to reduce this stress: “Give yourself permission to stop at least one thing this year.”

For example, she writes, only bake one kind of cookie, instead of six; don’t do holiday cards unless you love sending them; scale back on the decorations – don’t put up a tree if you hate doing it; don’t shop in the mall if you hate crowds, do it online; or don’t attend holiday parties if you don’t enjoy them.

And what should you do if you are feeling stressed? “Run away,” Sharp writes.

“Current holiday traditions are a perfect storm for stress: an abundance of bright blinking lights, crowds and traffic, high-fat meals and treats, overspending, and constant fast-paced music (often with jingle bell beats). Your senses become overloaded and sometimes you need to get away and rest,” she says.

She then offers a few specific ways she and her family have reduced their holiday stress such as drawing names for the adults and only buying gifts for the children; gathering on a day that works best for everyone, instead of trying to see everyone on the actual holiday; shifting to an informal potluck style meal; and not making anyone feel guilty for bringing store-bought items

“Instead of feeling stressed, we feel thankful and happy,” she writes. “And for that we’re grateful all year round.”

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