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How to Stay Centered During the Holiday Season

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Holiday Stress

Holiday parties, gift giving, time spent with loved ones. There’s something so magical about this “most wonderful time of year.” But with the Christmas cards, seasons greetings, and festive music often comes something much less wonderful — chronic stress and an increased risk of a heart attack. It can be hard to stay centered during the holiday season.

Though Christmas usually means a bit of time away from work, the added pressures and expectations from friends, family members, and yourself can often be worse than the pressures of your job. Busy schedules, overspending, and overcommitment can quickly spiral out of control, leaving you facing the New Year burned out and exhausted. 

This is supposed to be a time of cheer, but it often feels like the opposite. How can you stay centered and focused on your well-being this holiday season? Let’s dig into some practical ways to protect your heart and enjoy good tidings of great joy this Christmas. 

Why is holiday stress so dangerous?

As we’ve well established, any chronic stress can be deadly. However, holiday stress is often intensified. Since the holiday season is such a whirlwind, with parties, family gatherings, and gift exchanges all clustered into just a few weeks, those feelings of stress can quickly overtake your systems, leading to a flood of stress hormones like cortisol and an elevated parasympathetic state. 

This type of stress can increase inflammation, impair your immune system, destroy your gut microbiome, and impede mental and physical health — which all contribute to cardiovascular issues.  A 12-year study published in the journal Circulation found that about one-third more deaths from ischemic heart disease in December and January than from June through September. While lack of sunshine certainly contributes, the stress and overindulgence of the holiday season play a major role in these cardiac events. 

According to research, “People in the United States are more likely to feel their stress increases rather than decreases during the holidays. The holidays can be a hectic time for many, and a lack of money, a lack of time, and the hype and commercialism of the season causes increased stress for people in this country.” The study suggests that people often engage in sedentary behaviors to cope with holiday stress, such as watching TV, eating and drinking excessively, and oversleeping.

Here are a few practical ways to stay centered, maintain your “Zen” during the holiday season, and start the New Year off right.

Let go of weighty expectations

The holidays come with a wealth of expectations—pressures from friends, family, coworkers, and of course, the pressures you put on yourself. We often feel obligated to create the magic of Christmas for those in our lives. This usually comes at the detriment of enjoyment and health. 

This season, let go of those expectations, focus on what brings you joy, and recognize that most of the things you are stressing about don’t matter in the end. Your family and friends would much rather spend Christmas with the healthiest, happiest version of you than unwrap the perfect present or enjoy a four-course meal.

Instead of scrolling through social media with its perfectly curated and stylized version of Christmas, accept the sometimes messy or imperfect reality of your own life and embrace the joys that come with it. And remember, those social media feeds don’t always portray the whole picture. 

If necessary, take a social media detox over the holiday season. This can help you avoid comparing yourself to others and negate the stress of unrealistic expectations. 

Don’t neglect your health

While many people set aside their health goals from Thanksgiving to the New Year to enjoy holiday parties and stacks of Christmas cookies, this isn’t doing your body any favors. Instead of going off the rails with your health and trying to recover good habits in January, make conscious choices that allow you to maintain your standard of living. 

During holiday parties and get-togethers, bring a healthy dish that you can enjoy or eat before you go, if necessary. Gather the family and take a walk after dinner, or encourage a brisk round of ultimate frisbee or a bike ride. You can even crank up the Christmas music and start a dance party or do some family stretches.

Instead of allowing the holidays to sap your enthusiasm for health, use them as a time to clue others into the joys of healthy living. You are not depriving your body but protecting it. 

Stick to a budget

One of the biggest stressors of the holiday season comes from the wallet. Many spend heedlessly, dropping thousands of dollars on presents, traveling, new clothing for parties, and decorations. Remember, your Christmas joy isn’t measured by cost.

Many people appreciate thoughtful, homemade gifts more than generic, expensive store-bought ones. Decorations and clothes you used last year will work just as well, and if they don’t, secondhand stores are always a great place to start.

Buying things that you can’t afford and making poor financial decisions is a huge source of stress that is easily avoided with a little planning and intentionality. Set a budget early in the season and plan out your expenses, so you’re not burdened by undue financial strain or shocking credit card bills once the tree is packed away. 

Prioritize what really matters

Staying centered during the holiday season means avoiding detours that distract you from the real intention of the season. It is a time of gratitude, kindness, and giving from the heart — not a time of burnout, obligatory presents, and stressful social situations. You have control over your Christmas and can only make it a time of peace and joy. 

Don’t let family squabbles, disappointing plans, or stress get in the way of your enjoyment. Practice mindful meditation and take quiet time away to focus on your mental wellness. Intentional breathing exercises are a great way to refocus your mind and recenter your body. Or, take a break and go for a solo walk. Whatever you need to do to maintain that peace.

Stick to a routine as much as possible

Hopefully, you have a healthy routine that involves daily exercise outdoors in the sunshine, quality, organic food, and mindfulness activities. If you do, don’t neglect it over the holidays! This is when a routine can help you stay on track and avoid many stressors that arise at Christmas. 

Outline a schedule of your planned activities and invitations. This will help you avoid over-committing. If you are invited to something that hampers your schedule or routine, don’t be afraid to say yes! Make a list of your must-dos” to ensure that you make time for what is important. Traditions will change, but each Christmas will look a little different. Be willing to accept change and create new memories that will last a lifetime. 

Practice mindfulness

Mindful awareness of your body is also an excellent way to check in with yourself in busy, hectic times. Go to a quiet room and sit comfortably. Take stock of all five senses — tuning into each one and checking in with yourself. What do you taste, hear, see, smell, and feel in the present moment? Where does your body ache or feel tight? Pair this activity with some gentle stretching or self-massage. 

Next steps

One of the most stressful things about the holiday season is finding the perfect gift for everyone in your life. Avoid this stress by downloading and browsing our Holiday Gift Guide! We’ve compiled a list of our favorite health gifts that will delight everyone on your list.

Christmas is a time of love, forgiveness, and putting others before yourself, but it doesn’t mean your health should suffer. Give where you can, but don’t overextend yourself or bring on unnecessary stressors. Nothing will ever be perfect, but it’s okay! Wishing you a merry Christmas season!

Eat well, Live well, Think well

Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza 2022

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Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

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About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

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I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

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About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

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Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

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Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

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We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

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Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

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Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.