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How to Manage Holiday Stress

Most of us have some stress in our everyday lives. Whether it’s anxiety from work, family drama, or worries about our health, there’s plenty of stressors to contend with. The holiday season, for all its magic, also comes with plenty of pressure. There’s the shopping, the travel, and the need to spend time with all the important people in our lives.

More serious types of anxiety, too, can resurface this time of year. Painful feelings like grief about the past or loss of a loved one, or unresolved trauma caused by people we’re expected to see, can be difficult to navigate. For people who can’t be with their families, feelings of lonliness often accompany the holidays.

No matter the cause, feeling stressed is normal and learning how to cope with it will serve you not only through the new year, but for many years to come.

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The Body and Stress

Your body releases hormones whenever you’re stressed. It is part of the fight-or-flight response that has developed over millions of years. You become more alert, your muscles get tense, and your pulse increases. The stress is meant to help you handle the situation. Staying stressed, even after the underlying cause has been dealt with, can lead to chronic stress which causes health problems like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Menstrual problems
  • Anxiety

Anxiety is what happens when the stress becomes out of control. You are in a constant state of worry. Symptoms include:

  • Changes in appetite, energy, and motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling angry, frustrated, sad, scared, or worried
  • Headaches, body aches, stomach problems, or rashes
  • Nightmares
  • Use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
  • Worsening physical or mental health
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Keys to Managing Holiday Stress

It’s important to recognize and take control of triggers that may lead to stress, especially during the holidays. The Mayo Clinic offers many helpful tips to help identify and stress and develop coping skills:

  • Maintain healthy habits — To keep up your energy and spirit, make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating as healthy as possible, and staying active. There’s lots of tempting treats this time of year, so make sure you have a plan.
  • Make a budget — Before you start buying gifts, set a budget that is realistic for what you can afford. Consider presents that allow you and your loved ones to spend time together, rather than lots of material items.
  • Set aside differences — Extra time with family members might mean more tension and the temptation to bring up past disagreements. Try to set boundaries and prepare to accept people as they are. 
  • Take a break — Set aside some time for yourself. While your schedule fills up with celebrations, make sure that you plan some quiet time for yourself or an activity you enjoy. This will give you time to clear your head and relax.

Taking care of yourself will help not only your mental health, but your physical well-being too. The holidays always bring lots of cheer and excitement. By following a de-stressor gameplan, you can give yourself the gift of peace of mind.

Get Help When You Need It

If stress is keeping you from enjoying the holidays or other parts of your life, it might be time to seek professional assistance. Start by talking with your primary care doctor. They may have some tips or advice for you, and they can also refer you to AltaMed Behavioral Health Services.

If you’re not sure if stress is your problem or if you should see a doctor, you can call AltaMed Behavioral Health Services directly at (855) 425-1777. We’ll help you find answers so you can get the care that’s right for you. Take a deep breath…together, we’ve got this.

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Meditate Your Way to Less Stress

Americans are overwhelmed by stress. The American Psychological Association (APA) has called it a “national mental health crisis.”

According to the APA, 27% of Americans experience such intense stress that it impacts their ability to function. Common stressors include inflation, violence, crime, and politics. Meditation is a free and extremely effective way to get your stress in check and put yourself on a path to better physical and mental health.

Inside Blog Meditation

Meditation Basics

Meditation has been around for thousands of years. It was originally seen as a way to gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual forces in people’s lives. Today, it’s most often used to reduce stress and relax.

Meditation can help people focus their thoughts to gain perspective on what may be causing them stress. Identifying stressors can then lead to reducing the effect those stressors have on you.

The emotional benefits of meditation can include:

  • Building stress-management skills
  • Fewer negative emotions
  • Focusing on the present
  • Getting perspective on stressful situations
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased patience
  • Increased self-awareness
Meditating Under a Tree

Types of Meditation

The goal of meditation is to help you relax. It can be as simple as sitting in a quiet place and listening to your breath. Other forms can be a little more involved. Here are some examples:

  • Guided meditation — Use your imagination to see places or situations that are relaxing. Try to involve as many senses as you can. There are apps that can help with this form of meditation.
  • Mantra meditation — Repeat, in your mind, a calming word or thought to help you focus.
  • Loving-kindness meditation — Open your mind to feelings of love and compassion both to others and yourself. Try to let go of anger you’ve been holding.
  • Visualization — Try to imagine a scene that invokes happiness and relaxation. Use all five senses to make the visual as real as possible.
  • Movement meditation — Unlike many forms of meditation that rely on stillness, movement meditation is about making small movements at a slow pace, while keeping your mind calm. 
  • Body scan meditation — Try scanning your body for sources of discomfort, tension, or pain. By concentrating on physical areas, you’ll feel more connected to your entire self – not just your mind. 
  • Focus meditation — Devote 100% of your attention on a feeling, a sound, or even an object. Stay present but try to calm your inner thoughts and let the sensations of whatever you’ve chosen to focus on take over.
  • Qi gong — Pronounced CHEE-gung, this form of traditional Chinese medicine combines breathing exercises with movement, meditation, and relaxation. Talk to your doctor before doing any meditation that involves movement.
  • Tai chi — This is a Chinese martial art that combines slow, graceful movement with deep breathing.

Common Elements of Meditation

Each form of meditation has different features however, these are some common elements across all types of meditation:

  • A quiet setting
  • A comfortable position
  • Focused attention
  • Relaxed breathing
  • An open attitude
Grass Meditation

Health Benefits of Meditation

There has been extensive research into the health benefits of meditation. It has been shown to help people dealing with a number of different issues including anxiety, depression, and sleep disruptions.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, here are some health-related topics that include studies on the benefits of meditation.

  1. For cancer patients and survivors — The Society for Integrative Oncology recommends meditation as one way to help reduce the anxiety and stress for people suffering from cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.
  2. Blood pressure — The American Heart Association supports using meditation as a complement to standard treatment to lower blood pressure.
  3. Menopause — Yoga, tai chi, and other meditation techniques have been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flashes, stress, muscle and joint pain, sleep disturbances, and mood changes.
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — Research shows that meditation may help reduce the pain that patients with IBS patients experience.

Meditation vs. Mindfulness

While meditation is a tool that can be used to calm down and improve emotional balance, the root of meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness – separate from meditation – is about living in the ‘now’, rather than dwelling on the future or past. Practicing mindfulness keeps you in the present and helps you accept the emotions or sensations that arise.

Add Meditation to Your Health Regimen

Meditation can be another part of your routine to stay healthy. Add it to your activities, just like you would exercise or eating right. AltaMed can support you in those efforts. We’re here to meet the health needs of you and your entire family — both inside and out.

AltaMed Behavioral Health Services is also there to help you find healthy ways to manage the stress that surrounds us. Call us at (855) 425-1777.

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Your End of Year Health Checklist

There’s lots to plan for as the new year approaches. For many people, that includes health goals like working out more or cutting back on sugar. However, it’s important to make sure you’re remembering the little stuff. These are simple things you can do for yourself and your family to make sure you’re getting the most out of your health care provider. 

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Schedule Checkups

Everyone in the household needs an annual checkup or physical – Mom, Dad, Grandma, Auntie, and the kids. It’s essential to get those done so you can keep track of changes that occurred over the last year. They’re important for everyone but especially for children who are reaching developmental milestones. Missing those checkups could cause you to miss critical moments where intervention is necessary to prevent future issues. The checkups can also lead to recommended screenings which could turn out to be lifesaving

Visit the Gynecologist

Or make the appointment, at least. This visit goes beyond a routine physical. People with female reproductive organs should have annual visits to get pelvic and breast exams along with other screenings.

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Visit the Dentist

Oral hygiene cannot be overlooked. A beautiful smile and healthy teeth are great. But a number of serious health conditions — cancer, heart disease, or diabetes — can be traced back to poor oral care.

Get an Eye Exam

It is something you should do annually if you wear glasses or contacts. You can do it less frequently if you don’t have any vision issues. Your doctor will make recommendations about how often you should see an eye doctor. The younger you are, the less frequently you need go.

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Get Moving

Any activity is good activity. No one is asking you to run a marathon. You just need to move, and not much. Start by walking 15 minutes a day. Ideally you should get to a point where you’re walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. You’re not doing it to lose weight. You’re doing it for the health of your heart and to lower your blood pressure, helping your body for years to come.

Ask About Skin Screenings

When you visit your doctor for a checkup, ask about any spots that you are concerned about. They can recommend seeing a dermatologist about any moles or freckles that are raised or have changed in shape or size since your last visit. Have your skin checked annually if you are at risk for skin cancer — if you work outdoors, or have a family history — or have other skin conditions.

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Meal Prep

Bad eating habits are often the result of poor planning. We get busy and, despite good intentions, our healthy eating habits fall to the wayside. Spending one day preparing meals for the week will help us ensure we eat healthier and not neglect nutrition when we don’t have the energy to cook for ourselves or our families.

Let Our Family Care for Yours

Good health should be simple: it should be easy for you to find doctors who can give you and your family the care you need when you don’t feel well, or when you’re healthy and want to stay that way. And it should be simple for you to find care that’s close to home and doctors who speak your language and understand what’s important to you. We have bilingual health care professionals in your neighborhood. In fact, many of our doctors live in the communities they serve. We’re dedicated to helping individuals and families get the right care they need to grow healthy.

Get started by calling (888) 499-9303.

How to Manage Holiday Stress