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The Most Wonderful (and Stressful) Time of the Year

  November 02, 2016

By Matthew Wheat, CPT and Wellness Director, Westminster Village

Packed malls, maxed-out credit cards and holiday stress. It’s the holiday season, and you need to do your shopping, decorate your home, and plan your family get-together, all while continuing to work long hours and pay your bills. It’s not a secret that the holidays can bring more stress than joy. But what is stress? How is stress affecting you? How do you deal with stress?

Stress is nothing more than your brain releasing hormones into the body when it feels threatened. One hormone that your brain releases is adrenaline. Adrenaline increases both your heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol is another hormone that the brain releases when it’s stressed. Cortisol releases glucose into your bloodstream, which your body uses for energy. Some stress in your life is normal. Rushing to get your Christmas shopping done, getting presents wrapped and dealing with long lines at the store — these are all examples of everyday stressors. Chronic stress can take the joy and cheer out of your holiday and cause a plethora of health problems.

Prolonged exposure to these stress hormones can cause digestive problems, high blood pressure, muscle soreness, or weight gain. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic stress can also lead to heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. Mentally, chronic stress can lead to restless sleep or insomnia. Lack of sleep can even cause anxiety disorders and depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million adults.

How do we deal with stress? One method of relieving stress is coloring a mandala. A mandala is a geometric figure symbolizing the universe, which is commonly found in artwork associated with Indian religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Coloring a mandala is a great way to momentarily take your mind off of busy schedules, bills, and crowded stores. Coloring a mandala takes about 15 minutes, and mandala sheets can be found online for free. You can do this activity in the privacy of your own home away from holiday shoppers and crowded parking lots. Make sure there are no distractions around, such as televisions, computers, or cell phones.

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise in any form can be a great stress reliever. When a person exercises, their body releases neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins can give you feelings of euphoria or a “feel good” sensation. This is also known as runner’s high. Exercising doesn’t require expensive gym memberships or large pieces of equipment. The Mayo Clinic states that an individual should walk 30 minutes a day. Not everyone feels like they can take 30 minutes out of their busy schedule to walk. Your 30 minutes of walking doesn’t have to be done at one time. It can be broken up into three 10-minute walks or two 15-minute walks.

During the busiest time of year, it can be difficult to find time to relax or engage in activities that reduce stress. These simple tasks can help you reduce stress and stay healthy during the holidays, without breaking the bank or taking up too much time — leaving you free to fully enjoy the time with your friends, family and loved ones.

Westminster Village, a continuing care retirement community, is dedicated to providing an environment for all retirement lifestyles including independent living, licensed assisted living, and skilled nursing care. For more information, please contact Westminster Village: 309-663-6474 or

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November 02, 2016

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