[MOL] We must strive to be as stress free as possible.... [00427] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] We must strive to be as stress free as possible....

Holiday Stress

What to Do When You Need Ho-Ho-Help

WebMD Medical News

Reviewed By Dominique S. Walton, MD, MBA

Dec. 11, 2000 -- The holidays really are the best of times and the worst of times. Our tidings of comfort and joy can so easily be devoured by the insatiable stress to do it all, be it all, and buy it all.

And that stress is nothing to ho, ho, ho about, either. It increases your risk of illness and even death. One study, published in the Oct. 12, 1999, issue of the journal Circulation, suggested holiday stress and overindulgence help explain the soaring rate of fatal heart attacks in December and January.

Yet it is possible to survive the holiday frenzy without feeling frenetic -- if you know how. Here are top tips from some of the nation's leading stress experts:

Stress Master: Psychologist Alice Domar, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, and author of the book "Self-Nurture."

Strategy: Cut yourself some slack! (Something she intends to do this holiday season as the mother of a 4-year-old and with a baby due Dec. 22.)

Stress Master: Nutritional biochemist Judith Wurtman, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of the book "Managing Your Mind & Mood Through Food.''

Strategy: Eat to stave off tension as well as hunger.

Stress Master: Robert Sapolsky, professor of biological sciences and neurology at Stanford University and author of "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Disease and Coping."

Strategy: Put whatever's stressing you in perspective. Chances are your stress level isn't high because you're running for your life from an attacking lion. So just imagine explaining your angst over failing to procure a Sony Playstation 2 or create a Martha Stewart table to a really empathetic giraffe. If your holiday woes would sound like utter nonsense to the giraffe, you're describing stressors of your own making and you can conquer them.

Stress Master: Eric Brown, spokesman for the Center for a New American Dream, a Maryland-based, nonprofit organization urging Americans to shift their consumption to improve quality of life and the environment.

Strategy: Learn how to have more fun with less stuff! (A 1998 poll commissioned by the center and conducted by EDK Associates of New York found that 44% of Americans feel pressure to spend more than they can afford at holiday time, and only 28% report the holidays leave them feeling "joyful.")

Vicki Haddock is a reporter for The San Francisco Examiner who writes about health and family frequently for WebMD. She lives in Petaluma, Calif.

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