As a busy working mom and wife, Nancy Travis, 51, knows
how the added pressure of shopping for the perfect holiday presents and
prepping for a big holiday meal can put a person over the edge and lead to getting
sick over the holidays. Studies conducted at the University of California have
shown an increase of stress can have a negative effect on health, and increase
the odds of coming down with everything from a bad case of the sniffles to a full-blown
bout of the flu. Stress also shows up in the form of tension headaches, back
and neck aches, and fatigue.
According to a stress poll by the American Psychological
Association, more than 8 out of 10 Americans anticipate stress
during the holiday season. But the co-star of ABC’s hit sit-com “Last Man
Standing” and mom to two teen sons refuses to let the holidays pile on immune
system busting amounts of stress.
“With the holidays upon us, I think it’s easy for busy
parents to get stressed out. We’re shopping for the perfect gifts, worried
about baking the perfect pie, trying to set up perfect decorations, etc., all
while still working, having to take care of the house and so on,” she says.
“It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can certainly
be the most stressful.”
Travis admits she brings a lot of holiday stress on herself.
“I tend to bite off more than I can chew. I’m usually the
hostess and will invite everyone I know over for big, overwhelming meals for
the holidays because that’s really what I enjoy. But it's a catch-22 because
what I enjoy is also very stressful.”
Wearing Her Stress on Her Sleeve
Travis says stress lands in her head, neck and shoulders.
“When I get stressed out, I will get an awful headache that won’t quit. My neck
and shoulders also bear the brunt of stress. I’ll be very tight and tense, she
says. That tension can lead to trouble sleeping, too.
Saying Sane Amidst The Chaos
Travis says she relies on a variety of strategies to keep
calm during the holidays.
“Carving out alone time is a crucial thing,” she says. “I’ll
make an excuse to go by myself to another part of the house to sit in silence
for a few minutes or even lay down and catch my breath. And if I really need a
time-out, I will go to the store alone to stock up on milk or something else
we’re out of. I’ll use a crafty excuse to get out that really is a lifesaver
and gives me a break so I don’t lose it.”
Travis also relies on these stress-busters to stay healthy
throughout the holiday season:
Rely on furry friends.
“We have two rescue dogs and I’ll take them for a walk to get away from the craziness
and clear my head.”
Travis says she needs to exercise to combat stress. “My level of stress is always
worse if I don’t exercise, even for one day.” Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean
heading to the gym or lifting weights. “I’ll run, ride the stationary bike or walk.
I love running because my thoughts start to drift. There’s a rhythm and I
really start to relax.”
Let yourself enjoy
the holidays. “I love food, and I don’t deprive myself but I keep
moderation in mind. That’s the key to good health.” Travis admits to overdoing
it on holiday fare now and then, but instead of stressing out and beating
herself up, she makes up for it over the next few days. “If I overdo it, I calm
down the eating and pay closer attention to what I eat.
Get creative with
shopping. “I shop online to avoid the stress of running around looking for
gifts or dealing with crowds, parking spots, etc.,” says Travis. “Instead of
dreading shopping and getting stressed about it, I can do it anytime day or
night. And every day feels like a holiday when the packages arrive.”
“You wouldn’t think so, but water is so important to beat stress,” says Travis.
“I drink a lot of water during the day which helps my skin, digestion and
overall feeling of health. Those things can increase energy levels, too.”
Despite the excitement of anticipating Santa, kids also
experience heightened stress during the holidays. The added chaos can disrupt
their schedules, sleep habits and household routines.
“I try to get my boys outside away from screens to enjoy
time with the family to keep their stress low,” says Travis. “Whether we all go
for a walk or hike, I’m trying to teach them to stop to smell the roses the same
way I take a moment during the holidays. That’s the best stress buster of all.”