Holiday Season Can Lead to Illness

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

All wound up this time of year? Well, you're not alone.

It's estimated up to 30 percent of people have significant problems with worry and anxiety most of the time, perhaps even more so at Christmas. And there's a growing body of research that shows this kind of stress can have a measurable impact on our overall health.

Immediate effects can be high blood pressure, headaches, feeling nervous, dizziness, pounding heart, shallow breathing or trembling. You may start to have neck and shoulder pain, sweaty palms and an upset stomach.

"What happens under stress is there's a shift in the predominance of the type of cell that tends to suppress the immune system," Dr. Donald Lurye. "And in addition, there are some hormonal changes that occur that will effect the body's response to illness."

Not only are you more likely to get the flu or catch a cold, stress can also exacerbate chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

"Stress can be managed, but requires a lot of self discipline," explains Dr. Lurye. "The number one thing to do is to forgive yourself for not being perfect, for not being in complete control of everything."

And don't forget exercise releases endorphins in the brain that produce a sense of relaxation and well-being. Plus, never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep.

And when all else fails, it's OK to cry. The National Institute of Mental Health says a good cry can be a healthy way to relieve your anxiety and might even prevent a headache.