It may be the most wonderful time of year, but it’s also the most stressful.
Even if you love every second of it, for most of us the holidays come with a “to do” list longer than your arm. Between the cooking, cleaning, shopping and partying no wonder stress levels shoot through the roof.
And then it happens.
You lose your car in the shopping center parking lot. You forget to bring the hostess gift you so carefully wrapped for your co-worker’s holiday party. Or you leave the crab dip in the fridge forgetting to ever serve it to your guests.
The fact is stress is a memory killer and it’s really no surprise with so much on your plate that some things slip through your fingers.
You see stress is stress. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re being chased by a bear or by a mile long “to do” list, your body doesn’t know the difference.
In either case you essentially go into “fight or flight” mode and your body starts pumping out the hormone cortisol.
More on cortisol… and it’s connection to short-term memory issues… in a moment, but first let’s talk a bit about stress and spatial memory.
Stress messes with your memory
Studies show that long-term stress monkey’s with your ability to remember the location of places and things. Which is why when you’re super stressed it can feel next to impossible to find that car in the shopping center parking lot.
But it’s not just spatial memory that stress effects. Researchers at the University of Iowa say stress is also the culprit behind you forgetting to put out the crab dip.
The cortisol your body pumps out targets the synapses that play an important role in memory, according to the animal study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
But the good news is the solution couldn’t be simpler.
You need to relax. And my 3 steps for beating holiday stress can help you do just that.
Stop the Stress Step #1: Change your chow
When you’re running around trying to achieve the “perfect” holiday stopping to eat is often the last thing you think about. And when you finally do, let’s face it you often don’t make the best choices.
Fast food grabbed on the go is almost always full of preservatives, carbohydrates and sugar which can lead to even more stress.
Instead take along healthy snacks such as almonds and walnuts to keep you fueled up while you’re on the go. And when you do sit down for a meal make healthier choices, cutting back on the carbs and picking delicious healthy proteins instead.
Stop the Stress Step #2: Grab some shuteye
Most of us burn the candle at both ends around the holidays. But getting enough quality sleep is critical to driving down your stress levels.
You should commit to getting as close to eight hour of uninterrupted sleep every night as you can, no matter what’s on the “to do” list.
But slipping off to sleep when you’re stressed can be easier said than done. So click here for my easy to follow plan for getting some zzzs naturally.
Stop the Stress Step #3: Make a Move
Exercise is one of the first things we let go around the holidays, and that’s a shame since exercise is nature’s stress buster.
If you don’t have the time for your full regular exercise routine over the holidays try something that takes up less time, but still keeps you moving. For example, perhaps you can fit in a short walk several times a week. If your evenings are full of holiday cheer try taking your walk over lunchtime instead.
That’s all it should take, three simple steps to send the holiday stress… and brain burps… packing.
Dr. Allan Spreen
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