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Managing Stress-Induced Asthma During The Holiday Season

Tight chest, racing mind, anxiety, insomnia, difficulty breathing… these are all symptoms of stress. If you have stress-induced asthma, these are all symptoms that you may have felt before. Stress causes you to become more reactive to your other asthma triggers like weather, pollen, and pets.1 Navigating the holiday season can be tricky because my partner’s asthma can be triggered by both cold weather and exacerbated by stress.

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year, or for some, the most stressful. The American Psychological Association found in a study2,3 that 38% of participants felt an increase in stress during the holiday season. Buying gifts, lack of sleep, and entertaining friends and family are all factors that can increase stress. This article discusses some of these common holiday stressors, and how to manage them.

Buying gifts

I am the first to admit that I am an extreme procrastinator. When it comes to buying presents for the holidays, I am no different. Even though I know I should start shopping earlier, I never do, and deal with the stress of shopping for presents last minute.

One way to reduce stress is to start your gift shopping earlier. I do not recommend searching for the perfect gifts one week before Christmas! This year for Christmas, my partner and I are teaming up to buy gifts for our families, rather than buying gifts for them separately. This takes some financial stress off of both of us and results in less time spent shopping.

Additionally, minimalism is a beautiful thing. I’ve been trying to convince my family that 1 or 2 small gifts are perfect for me. Having a minimalist holiday can get rid of the stress that manifests from buying dozens of presents. Discuss with your friends and family the idea of buying 1-2 really meaningful gifts for each other!

Prioritize sleeping

There are things to decorate, cookies to bake, and parties to attend to, but sleeping must remain a priority! Feeling stressed, especially before bedtime, can lower your quality of sleep and cause insomnia. Ironically, lack of sleep can also cause feelings of anxiety the next day. Lack of sleep can bring on feelings of anxiety, and exacerbate your asthma.

Alcohol and asthma

When adults are stressed, we frequently turn to alcohol. During the holiday season, alcohol is in abundance at potlucks and family gatherings. A glass of red wine can help calm the nerves, but Americans have a tendency to binge drink between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.

Indulging here and there is not a big deal, but indulging in alcohol for the entire holiday season can have a negative effect on your asthma. Sulfites and histamines found in wine, cider, and beer can be a trigger for your asthma. Consistent drinking can also cause you to be more sensitive to your regular triggers.4

If the thought of drinking just water during holiday festivities saddens you, have no fear! My partner and I are both sensitive to alcohol, so we will treat ourselves to a nice kombucha instead. Sometimes I will make a mocktail if I’m in the mood for something fancy!

Finding alone time

Yes, the holidays are a time for family, but saving a small slice of alone time is vital. It can be so lovely to see family we haven’t seen in a long time, but some of us might find ourselves butting heads with family members. More people in your home can easily cause your stress levels to rise, causing stress-induced asthma symptoms.

It may feel selfish to step away for some alone time, but you must tend to self-care before tending to others! You don’t necessarily need to spend hours alone, but maybe allocate 30-60 minutes for yourself. You could take a bath, meditate, read, go on a walk, or eat a nice meal by yourself. Make these moments alone stress-free zones; minimize noise, and try to not think about your “to-do” list.

Take aways

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the holiday spirit and let your stress levels spike. However, the last thing your loved ones want is for you to have a stress-induced asthma attack during the holiday season! Creating holiday magic is often a high priority, but this can lead to burn-out. Keep in mind, you don’t have to say yes to every holiday gathering! Try to emphasize what truly matters; like being present and spending quality time with loved ones.

How do you practice self-care during the holiday season? Do you have any tips for managing stress during this time of the year?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Stress and anxiety as asthma triggers. Asthma UK. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/stress/. Accessed November 26, 2019
  2. Greenberg A, Berktold J. Holiday Stress. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf. Published December 12, 2006. Accessed November 26, 2019.
  3. Moss J. Holidays can be stressful. They don't have to stress out your team. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/12/holidays-can-be-stressful-they-dont-have-to-stress-out-your-team. Published January 28, 2019. Accessed December 1, 2019.
  4. Asthma UK. Alcohol as an asthma trigger. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/alcohol/. Accessed November 26, 2019.

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