NORFOLK Va,- Holiday parties, gift-giving, and family gatherings are some of the things that make the holiday season great, but they're also a few reasons why most of us experience an increase in stress this time of year.
Understanding why we get anxious and the toll that takes on our bodies can help us relax this Christmas.
If you are feeling a little anxious don't worry you are not alone, 70-percent of people report feeling a spike in stress over the holidays.
Researchers say the stress is mostly caused from the holidays completely throw your regular routine out the window. Now couple that with gift-giving and the idea that you must spend a lot of money.
Cognitive Neuroscientist Dr. Jared Horvath says short term stress is good for the brain because it helps with focus. Long term stress, however, like the kind you experience for weeks over the holidays can cause some serious health problems.
"If you pushed past the level of no return with stress, physiologically you might then spend the rest of your life just trying to fight back against that. So long term stress in the body is just not a winner, there's nothing good about it," Horvath said.
Dr. Horvath says another reason holiday stress is so common is because expectations are really high for every party you throw, dinner you make and gift you give to be perfect.
He recommends combating stress by first focusing on your body. Exercise is a great way to fight off the rise in cortisone and start feeling relaxed again.
"The top ways to target stress if you know it starts in the body is to directly target the body and here is where things like deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation, or exercise. The entire point of these exercises is to change the chemicals in your body," Horvath said
Dr. Horvath says stress is a chemical response, so doing things like drinking to fight the stress will not help. You are only adding more chemicals on top of the problem.
"If you choose not to see something as stressful that is the other way to stop the stress response so there's where meditation, mindfulness and focus really come in. So target the body and target the mind," Horvath said.
Finally he recommends beating the holiday stress by avoiding anything that feels too overwhelming. Decide to pass up on that 12th cookie swap party, or decline an invitation to the 4th holiday party.