Stress doesn’t take holidays off. In fact, the opposite is often true: Stress saps the joy out of the season for many people.
Stress is manifest in many forms of poor health or bad lifestyle habits during the holidays, when people typically put a long list of errands, shopping, baking and parties ahead of being good to their own bodies. They might get sick as a result – or expedite a path to long-term health problems.
“Stress is often more pronounced during the holiday season, and the effects it can have on our health are widespread and potentially very damaging,” says Dr. Sanda Moldovan (beverlyhillsdentalhealth.com)
“The holidays are such a hectic time, and people need to slow down a bit, realize how susceptible they are to all kinds of problems, and what they can do to avoid them.”
Moldovan lists different ways stress materializes and how to avoid or lessen the associated problems:
- Teeth grinding. Also called bruxism, this can cause cracks in the teeth that can lead to tooth loss. Teeth grinding also causes wear, which can collapse the bite and cause pain in the jaw. Cutting back on certain foods and drinks that contain caffeine – colas, coffee, sweets – can help stop teeth grinding. For persistent grinders, two things that help, Moldovan says, are a custom-made mouth guard and mouth yoga. “Take the time to stretch your jaw muscles in the morning,” Moldovan says. “Five minutes go a long way. Open your mouth wide and massage the sides of your jaw.”
- Migraines. Migraine sufferers really have to watch it during the holidays, Moldovan says. Triggers include processed and fried meats, too much caffeine or alcohol, and chocolate. “Lack of sleep and lessened physical activity are also culprits,” Moldovan says. “Six to eight hours of quality sleep is recommended to help prevent headaches, but so many people run themselves ragged until late during the holidays. And too many people stop exercising. Being sedentary invites problems.”
- Overeating/poor nutrition. Stress often manifests in folks stuffing themselves, relying on comfort foods or holiday junk. “It’s easy to say, ‘Well, everyone overeats during the holidays and consumes lots of sugar,’ “ Moldovan says. “But that doesn’t have to be you. Don’t let the holidays be a food free-for-all. Overindulging adds to stress and can bring all sorts of health issues.” Among them: obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dental woes such as periodontitis, cavities and oral ulcer. “People are overfed and undernourished and this wreaks havoc on their bodies inside and out,” Moldovan says. “It also leads to accelerated aging and a lesser-performing immune system.”
“Too many people let the holidays get away from them in terms of packing so much in, worrying about so many things and letting their health slide,” Moldovan says. “This holiday season, give yourself the gift of de-stressing a little. At least step off the gas some so your health doesn’t suffer.”
About Dr. Sanda Moldovan
Dr. Sanda Moldovan is an award-winning board-certified periodontist