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The holidays are a joyful time for almost everyone.  But they also mean stress – and an extra portion of it – for most of us.

Your family doctor will tell you that even several weeks after the New Year’s Eve party decorations have been put away, the stress of the season is still high.

Many people start trying to follow through on New Year’s resolutions… and the stress of starting a new exercise or nutrition program, while temporary, is still significant.

(When a rigorous exercise program’s purveyors tell you to “check with your physician” before starting the regimen… make sure you do!)

And stress is one of the most dangerous contributors to serious health trouble.

So right now is a great time to think about keeping your holiday stress in check.  Talk to your family medical practitioner about how best to do this (they’ll have recommendations tailored to what they know about you personally, and about your specific health situation).

Start By Checking Yourself – As Often As Necessary

These days, you can’t go to the grocery store without passing a free blood pressure and heart rate checking machine.

Take the three extra minutes you need to sit down and take a look at your numbers!

If your blood pressure is too high, your doctor will probably recommend you take immediate action.

One thing you can do is to take a moment right there, in the seat of the free checking machine, to close your eyes and take a few deep cleansing breaths.

Count slowly in your mind to four (trying to count out the “seconds” if you can), and inhale smoothly and deeply as you do.  Then count slowly to eight, as you exhale and push all of the air out of your lungs.

Don’t force it… and don’t worry too much about the counting… the point is to relax your body.  (By the way, you’ll probably find your mind and emotions coming to a more relaxed state, as well!)

Then check yourself again.

Sometimes, just a couple of minutes of relaxation – deep breathing to give your body a chance to recover ever-so-slightly from the stress of the season – can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

And if you’re able to reduce your blood pressure numbers in just a couple of minutes of relaxation technique, think about making your “breathing exercise” a routine part of your day.

It’s Not A Bad Time For A Check-Up At The Doctor’s Office

If you’re experiencing a more acute case of the stress the holidays can bring, consider scheduling an appointment for a check-up at your family medical clinic.

Everyone’s busy this time of year… but your health is too important not to find the time to check in with your doctor when you’re struggling with holiday stress.

Your family medical practitioner will certainly check your blood pressure and heart rate (and undoubtedly with more accuracy than you can get from the grocery-store machine)… but they’ll probably perform other checks, too, to get as complete a picture of your health as possible.

They’ll listen to your lungs, take a look at your ears and throat… and generally do whatever it takes to check-in with your body and form recommendations on things you can do to beat the “Stress Grinch.”

And when you hear those recommendations… follow them!

Your doctor wants you to be healthy, all year long.  But it will not come as a surprise to the folks at your family medical clinic if you report a bit of a struggle with stress this holiday season.  And since stress is one of the most dangerous threats to your health, your doctor will be glad you did what you had to do to keep it in check.  And so will you.