MLT Blog

Seasonal Stress – A Four Step Plan to Taking Control of Your Health

By Kathy Welborn McLean

Kathy Welborn McLean is an MBA Prep Coach with MLT. Her blog is the last of our Health and Wellness Series for 2016.

The hectic, last quarter of the year may conjure up extreme reactions in you, from joy and happiness to sorrow and pain. Many, like me, experience both. Usually, as early as Halloween, I feel like a mythical freight train begs me to jump on board with promises to effortlessly whisk me through the joyful demands of holiday activities, family obligations, work requests, and charitable events. But each year, I find myself barreling down the tracks with no ability to pull the emergency break or jump off – ending the year feeling emotionally and physically depleted.

The American Physiological Association explains that normal daily challenges such as commuting, attending meetings and juggling family responsibilities can make your body react with the fight-or-flight response.  This results in an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure and higher energy levels to prepare you for the challenges ahead.  However, after you append seasonal stress such as exam deadlines and end-of-year financial responsibilities, this natural bodily response can become stuck in “go” mode and negatively impact your physical health. You may experience symptoms of joint or muscle pain, exhaustion or trigger migraines, weight gain, or trouble sleeping, to name a few.

So, how can you enjoy the season in good health?  Here are some tips:

  • Make a “ranked” list of all things that matter this holiday. Give yourself permission to say “no” to experiences that do not represent or support what’s important to you. For example, don’t purchase items that are outside of your budget, if financial stability is important to you.
  • Write down your top 5 stressors and own them. Resist the urge to explain to your mother for the 100th time that as a migraine sufferer, the mall can feel like kryptonite with the smell of pine and perfume, fluorescent lights and large crowds. You don’t need anyone to validate what makes you stressed or anxious.
  • Be proactive and plan ahead.  If you know that six holiday parties or gatherings exhaust you, prepare to only attend a few with no lingering guilt or reservations about your decision.
  • Give thanks every day. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can positively impact your mood. A positive perspective on life can help you become a happier person. Happier people often experience healthier lifestyle benefits like better sleep. It’s all connected!

So the next time a mythical train stops by your house offering a joyful ride, remember your four-step plan. Work your way to the front car, take a seat as the engineer and take control of that train – your health depends on it.