Holidays, Stress & Relationships
The holiday season is officially upon us and we are just a week away from the mayhem of holiday gatherings. As joyous as this time of year can be, logistics and family dynamics can often cause a high level of stress. While these factors are real, there is a component of togetherness during the holidays that can actually help reduce our stress.
A little bit about stress
The stress response in the body is a series of neurological and chemical cascades that occur in the attempt to help us survive and keep us safe. While this is beneficial to humans for a short period of time, this response over the long term can actually be detrimental to our health.
Mental stress & relationships … for better or worse
Mental stress can be the most challenging to manage of the three primary sources of stress (mental, chemical, physical). This is because it often involves things we can’t avoid like work, relationships, and money. While we can’t avoid the presence of these factors in our lives, one of the most significant ways that we can combat mental stress is to surround ourselves with strong social networks. The health benefits of being surrounded by people you care about are actually quite significant.
Health benefits of strong social ties include:
- Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A study out of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center followed children over the course of a couple weeks. They measured their levels of cortisol throughout the day and had them journal several times a day as well. The study found the children who had a best friend with them during stressful events showed lower levels of measured cortisol and reported higher levels of self-esteem.
- Increased cognition and executive functioning. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that just a 10-minute friendly social interaction provides a short-term boost to executive brain functioning that’s comparable to playing brain games.
- Increased health and longevity. An article from Scientific American states that the “benefit of friends, family, and even colleagues turns out to be just as good for long-term survival as giving up a 15-cigarette-a-day smoking habit.”
So during the next week and beyond, let’s perhaps take a moment to look around the room at gatherings and appreciate the people there who we care about. This may not encompass everyone in the room, but for those who it does, they are actually lowering your stress and increasing your health. In addition, practicing Gratitude Combats Stress even further. That is something worth celebrating this holiday season!
Dr. Breanna Tivy | Minnetonka Chiropractor
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