At this time of year with several big holidays approaching, like many of my patients, you may feel overwhelmed with too much to do and are starting to feel cranky and out of sorts. Along with all the usual responsibilities of jobs, family routines, etc., this season brings the added pressure of financial concerns from holiday spending.
In addition, friends and family that we may not have seen in a while show up in our lives again, relationship issues may become magnified, and our emotions run the gamut between joy and anger. Add those concerns to overeating high salty and fatty foods, drinking more alcohol, sleeping less, and skipping regular exercise, all of which can accompany the holiday season and we’ve created quite a little powder keg of stress.
It’s no wonder that many heart attacks occur during the holiday season – even hospital emergency rooms have their nicknames for them: The Hanukkah Heart Attack, The Christmas Coronary, and The New Years Nuke. However, it doesn’t have to be this way if you learn how to control stress, decompress from holiday pressures and practice simple, natural health. Here’s how.
What’s Stressing You?
Stress is a double-edged sword. It stimulates you to get through your day and actively participate in your life, helps you achieve goals and gives you the energy to do so. However, too much stress can have the opposite effect on you. It can cause muscle tension, high blood pressure, anxiety, irritability, and contribute to lack of sleep. It can also contribute to overeating, drinking, and smoking as a means to relieve stressful pressures. All this can have a bad effect on your heart.
When stress gets out of control, your adrenal glands pump out too much adrenaline that causes a feeling of anxiety. You may become restless and unable to sleep, much like the feeling you get when you’ve had too much caffeine. It can cause irregular heart rhythms as well as gastric upsets and inflammation that can set the stage for sudden, as well as chronic illness.
Excess adrenaline produces a stress hormone called cortisol which causes blood sugar and blood pressure to rise. It also causes us to store a lot of fat around our mid section. Chronic over-secretion of cortisol can lead to diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease, a weakened immune system, damage to arteries and the development of atherosclerosis. These chronic conditions can put you at much higher risk for a sudden heart attack during stressful conditions.
Here are some questions I ask my patients about their stress levels:
If you answered yes to 2 or more of these questions, you’re over your stress threshold.
How To De-Stress Your Heart
The holidays are all about our hearts – our emotional hearts are focused on dealing with friends and relatives and wanting to give our loved ones a joyful and beautiful time while having fun ourselves. Our spiritual hearts are focused on trying to embrace the spirit of the season and extending good will, time, and often money to those less fortunate. Our physical hearts are the part of us that feels the over-taxing of ourselves trying to do all these things at once. Here’s what I recommend to help control the effects of all the “holiday doing” on your heart:
Stress can lead to a whole host of diseases, particularly sudden heart attack. Taking time during the holidays to fit some needed “me-time” in, exercising, relaxing, visiting with friends and family, laughing, can go a long way in helping to control stress levels and save your heart!