By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

Tis the season to be jolly and this year – we’ve definitely earned it. But for many this can be a stressful time too and, with the pandemic still casting a shadow over us all, this holiday season could be more challenging than usual.

Stress can be very detrimental to our mental and physical health. More than 40% of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and nearly three quarters of all GP appointments are stress-related. However, if we can recognise the symptoms, there are ways to ease the strain and enjoy the festivities.

Stress is an evolutionary response. It occurs when a situation triggers your ‘fight or flight’ response, preparing you to defend yourself, or run for it! The hypothalamus causes stress hormones like adrenaline to surge through the body, causing your heart rate to soar, your breath to quicken and your muscles to tense – ready for action. In the case of danger, this gives us the best chance of survival. However, it becomes a problem in modern life when this reaction causes more problems than it solves.

The fortunate among us are rarely faced with life-threatening situations that require ‘fight or flight’. Instead we’re anxious about our jobs or family – or Christmas! If our anxieties continue, so does the stress response, which can have long term effects on our health.  

Ever noticed you come down with a cold when you’re stressed? That’s because it weakens the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to the bugs circulating during the winter months. Stress can also cause headaches and tension in the neck and shoulders, while the build up of stomach acid can cause or exacerbate heart burn.

Longer term, the impact is more serious. Chronic stress can break down your emotional defences leading to depression, while excess adrenaline and cortisol can disrupt your sleep. The liver secretes more glucose, heightening your blood sugar levels and increasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes, while the narrowing of blood vessels can lead to high blood pressure – and even heart problems further down the road.

Chances are – this blog itself is making you stressed! But that’s not what we’re here for. The truth is, there are plenty of ways to find calm, even amongst the festive madness.

Serotonin is our happy hormone that can counterbalance stressors like cortisol. You can boost your levels by getting plenty of sunlight (even in the cold) and eating complex carbohydrates like oatmeal. Vitamin C is also known to help reduce stress, so stock up on oranges and broccoli in your next grocery shop or pop by your local pharmacy for a supplement like Berocca, Redoxon or Vitamin B complex formulas.

Exercise is also a great way to combat stress. It releases endorphins that improve your mood, while lowering your blood pressure – and giving you the chance for some alone time if the kids get a bit crazy!

Meditation, mindfulness and yoga are popular practices for calming the mind and body. Take a look online for quick and easy videos that you can slot in between the family Zooms! Aromatherapy products like Nature’s Truth Oils or room sprays can create a calm atmosphere, while soothing drinks like Chamomile or other herbal tea blends can help you wind down on an evening.

Stress can often feel outside of your control, but you do have the power to recognise and tackle the symptoms before they escalate. You can always talk to your pharmacist about how to best ease your stress or visit your GP if you’re at all worried about your health. We’re here for you throughout the holiday season – and always. Happy holidays from Lindo’s Pharmacy!

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

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