6 Heart Healthy Ways to Beat Holiday Stress
Most of us can agree that there's no shortage of reasons to love the holiday season - gatherings with friends and family, delicious foods, chilly sweater weather and, of course, delicious foods galore. While preparing for all of the holiday festivities may feel exciting when you have several months or weeks to prepare, when those weeks turn into days or hours, things can quickly become stressful or overwhelming.
So, when the stress inevitably settles in, what do you do to cope?
Perhaps you're someone who turns to drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, eating balanced and nutritious meals, and keeping up with your weekly exercise routine. But more than likely, you may choose to stay warm and snuggled on the couch rather than exercising and indulge in those tasty casseroles and baked goods; it is the holiday season after all.
Unfortunately, though, it isn't just your waistline and energy levels that may pay the price for skipping those healthy behaviors. In fact, everything from your sleep hygiene and immune health, to your mood and heart health may be affected.
To help you make the most of the holiday season – without compromising your wellness – keep these simple heart-healthy tips in mind:
1) Stretch your legs.
It's no secret that getting routine exercise is great for heart health - it helps to lower blood pressure and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. And good news, it doesn't take much to elevate your heart rate. Just taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood - in the sunshine and fresh air - is enough to boost heart health, while also increasing your level of endorphins, or feel-good hormones.
2) Take stress relief to heart.
Growing research suggests that the impact stress has on health isn't just a mental or emotional one. Rather, chronic, or long-term stress, can have a direct effect on heart health. It can lead to elevated blood pressure and heightened cholesterol levels, as well as contributing to physical inactivity and overeating. To get some much-needed relief from stress, you can try exercising, journaling, mindfulness techniques or doing something to pamper yourself - massage appointment, anyone?
3) Indulge wisely.
While all of those tasty seasonal treats may be calling your name, it's essential to balance those out with nutritious meals, too. All things in moderation, right? Even better, find a healthy-alternative of a holiday classic, like dark chocolate brownies with walnuts, or mushroom and wild rice stuffing. Not only will these healthy alternatives provide heart-healthy nutrients, they’ll help to boost your energy levels and support digestive health.
4) Don’t skimp on sleep.
With all of the festivities, the absolute last thing you may feel like doing is getting into bed at a decent time. However, with a lack of sound snoozing, your heart health, as well as your overall mental and physical wellness will take a serious hit. Not only will you end up feeling grumpy and tired, but all of the side effects - irritability, headaches and an inability to focus - may only heighten your response to stressors. With that in mind, make sure you stick to your typical sleep schedule and get at least 8 to 10 hours of peaceful slumbering.
5) Stock up on citrus.
Everyone's favorite winter treat is finally in season once again. No, we aren't talking about pumpkin, rather we’re talking about fresh citrus. Everything from clementines, blood oranges and Meyer lemons, to grapefruits, tangerines and persimmons, are at their sweetest and juiciest during the winter months. These fresh fruits are not only great for heart health - they contain flavonoids and vitamin C - but their scent actually boosts levels of the endorphin, norepinephrine, which helps to alleviate stress.
6) Create a no-phone zone.
It may sound cliché, but during the holiday season, it's extra important to enjoy quality time with the people you're with. Let's be honest, if you're busy scrolling through your social media feeds, you're probably not also exercising and partaking in all of the other holiday festivities. More importantly, spending less time on your phone - answering work emails, or getting jealous looking at others' posts - isn't exactly a feel-good activity. Ditch the phones and let the real holiday fun begin.
Put Heart Into Your Holidays.
With more than 65 heart specialists seeing patients at 14 locations, The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center is the premier heart and vascular provider for the region. Our exceptional team of dedicated cardiologists and specialty-trained providers offer a wide-variety of services and the most advanced technology to ensure to treat the most complex of heart conditions. From preventative cardiovascular care and thorough diagnostics, to specialized treatments and clinical research and trials, The Heart Center will provide the personalized care you need throughout your heart care journey.