With Thanksgiving over, Christmas days away and the New Year just around the corner, there’s no wonder most people experience high levels of stress this time of year. In all the holiday excitement, it’s quite easy to let stress take over and adopt an unhealthy lifestyle.

Stress also comes in more than one form, including physical and psychological stress.

“Too much stress causes your adrenal glands to spill out a hormone called cortisol,” says Darren Roesch, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “Under the right conditions, this hormone can trigger a desire to eat fatty or sugary foods, alter the way insulin works in your body, and promote the accumulation of unhealthy body fat in your abdomen.”

Abdominal body fat accumulation is also associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many other negative health conditions.

It’s not always possible to avoid stress, especially during the holidays. But by adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can improve your body’s ability to cope with stress more effectively, Dr. Roesch says.

There are several ways you can change your lifestyle: exercise regularly; eat a healthy diet; reduce caffeine and sugar intake; avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs; and always get plenty of rest.

“Each of these lifestyle changes can positively impact the way your body processes stress,” Dr. Roesch says. “These are simple steps that can prevent the holiday stress from causing you to eat inappropriately and gain weight in ways that can be detrimental to your health.”

There are several ways to get your health back on track in time for the New Year. Speak to your local pharmacist if you have any questions about changing your lifestyle to become a healthier and happier you.

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