Staying Healthy Amid Holiday Stress


Ceia Kasper

Choosing to eat healthy snacks instead of sugary sweets can significantly reduce stress.

Do the holidays cause you to be stressed? If so, you are not alone. In a 2015 survey conducted by Healthline Networks, a health information site based in San Francisco, CA, 62% of respondents reported their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the “most wonderful time of the year,” while 10% experienced no stress during the holidays.

Many factors contribute to the increased levels of stress: cooking large amounts of food, spending money to purchase gifts, eating unhealthy foods, family gatherings, holiday commercialism, and sedentary behavior.

Stress can harm your body in sometimes irreversible ways – from physical changes such as weight gain and premature aging to internal conditions such as immune system weakening and the promotion of disease.

MHS Physical Education and Health teacher, Ms. Gravel, explains, “Stress is incredibly detrimental . . . Everyone should do what they can to avoid being excessively stressed.”

To avoid the harmfulness of stress this holiday season, you should eat healthy, prioritize exercise, and help others.


Eat Healthy

During the holidays, it can be especially challenging to eat healthy when we are inundated with unwholesome meals and treats.

Sugary foods are the most harmful treats during the holidays. These delicious, yet damaging snacks, cause blood sugar levels to spike, prompting the body to release more cortisol to balance blood sugar. Increased cortisol can cause sleep issues, decreased immune response, and headaches, which all induce stress.

MHS junior Param Oza said, “When I first eat sugary foods it feels nice . . . But after that first rush, it feels bad. I start to get sort of anxious.”

This year, substitute the stress-inducing cookies, cakes, and pies, with mouth-watering fruits and vegetables.


Prioritize Exercise

We all know that exercise is good for us, but do we ever engage in the aerobic activity we need?

In December, people tend to spend most of their time being stationary inside. However, prioritizing exercise during the holiday season creates a healthy lifestyle that will reduce stress, increase happiness, and help you feel better all-around.

In a study by the American Psychological Association, exercise was found to decrease stress levels in 62% of respondents. Regular aerobic exercise brings remarkable changes to your body, your heart, your metabolism, and your psyche. Whether it is running, yoga, playing a sport, or walking your dog, exercising each day markedly reduces stress.

“It [exercise] gives your body a release . . . It can be a great form of stress relief. Some people just need to move, and unplug from the things that are stressing them out,” says Gravel.


Help Others

The 2010 Do Good Live Well Survey, released by United Healthcare and VolunteerMatch, discovered that 89% of respondents reported that “volunteering has improved my sense of well-being,” and 73% agreed that “volunteering lowered my stress levels.”

Focusing on and assisting people in need, especially those who are less fortunate than you, can provide you with a sense of perspective on how fortunate you are. You can devote more time to being thankful and helping others, giving you less time to fuss over things that make you feel stressed.

With one week of no school, winter break is an ideal time to volunteer to reduce stress during the holidays. There are many volunteer options in Middleton, including opportunities at MOM (Middleton Outreach Ministry), the Middleton Senior Center, or the Middleton Youth Center.


Stress is everywhere. While moderate stress can sometimes be okay, too much stress is unhealthy. Engaging in the above three habits will reduce stress during the holidays and allow you to focus on the more enjoyable aspects of December.

“With the holiday break coming up, it’s a great time for people to step away from social, academic, and self-inflicted stress,” Gravel said. “This could be a really good time to defuse some of that stress.”