The end of the year is known as the “most wonderful” but for many, it’s also the most stressful. NBC News reports that more than 60% of American Millennials and Gen-Xers report feeling stressed about the holidays. Coincidentally, those are the age groups most likely to have children, but we digress.
Aside from potentially tainting “the most wonderful time,” too much stress can affect your gut health, which can have a negative impact on just about everything else.
Money, tasks, and social engagements seem to top the list of stress sources. Throw in the rich, fatty foods served at most holiday dinners and your digestion doesn’t stand a chance. But the good news is that you can assert more control over all of those things.
Treat Yourself Light
Making healthy food choices will help you sustain the energy you need to get you through the holidays. And if stress manifests as stomach issues for you, or you suffer from any other digestive issues, less junk food can help get you through that.
“Although stress may not cause stomach ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease, it can make these and other diseases of digestion worse,” says Everyday Health.
Our favorite tips:
- Choose the lean protein on the table – forgo prime rib in favor of chicken (or go vegetarian!)
- Enjoy dips with veggies rather than bread or crackers
- Pick your favorite dessert and have one piece of it
- Make smoothies for breakfast to start the day right
Don’t Go Broke to Show Love
Gifts are a natural part of the holidays, but more money doesn’t mean more love.
“Uncouple the association between gifts and expressions of love or concern and find creative ways in the relationship to demonstrate love and care that are free, or inexpensive,” says Lily Brown, Ph.D, director of research at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Our favorite ideas:
- Frame a letter from you and your kids to give to close relatives
- Give a certificate for a home-cooked meal to friends you’d like to see more
- Curate your old books into a group that your sister would love
- Set up a time to babysit for the busy parents in your life
Your Time is Yours
Remember that you can say no to any social engagement that you don’t have the energy for. We know it’s not that easy, especially with complicated family relationships. But if your mental well-being is at stake, sometimes a phone call and a rain check can free up the space you need.
“People are split between the competing demands of family, friends and work. Even if money isn’t a problem, when time is limited, people get tense,” says NBC News.
Your time belongs to you and those you want to spend it with. If someone makes you feel like you owe them your time, remind yourself that it’s yours.
Above all, be present and enjoy the time for what it is.
“If you find yourself feeling disappointed around the holidays year after year, allow yourself to feel what you feel. Say what you need to say and be present with loved ones without striving for it to be different than it always is,” says Brown.
Wishing you the most wonderful time of year from your friends at Troy Gastroenterology, Center for Digestive Health.