Survive Holiday Stress, Hangovers, and Heartburn

The holidays bring cheer but they can also bring stress, hangovers, and heartburn. Here’s how to avoid the three seasonal scourges of Christmastime.

Holiday Stress© iStockphoto/ThinkstockHelp for Holiday Stress
Shopping/wrapping/spending got you down? Try planning your day, keeping your desk neat, and making a to-do list.  People emphasize the wrong things when they try to cut down on stress, says psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD. Meditation and yoga are useful, he said recently in Scientific American Mind — but what made the biggest difference for the 3,300 people in his study were the nuts and bolts of life management. Researcher Elissa Epel, at the University of California, San Francisco, tells New Scientist magazine that taking a few minutes a day to focus on breathing can be a big help. And guess what: There’s an app for that. Developed by the Defense Department for soldiers, Breathe2Relax (free) will guide you through a breathing exercise, monitor your breath rate, and help you keep it at a healthy level.

Help for Hangovers
“There is no such thing as a hangover cure,” Meredith Melnick writes on “In a review of 15 clinical trials … a team of researchers publishing in the British Medical Journal found that not a single one worked.” So don’t expect miracles, whether you knock back raw eggs or pricey new remedies like an amino-acid-rich elixir called Mercy. What does work: prevention. Sigh. If you remember the merits of that approach too late to use it, don’t overdo the painkillers the day after. “Alcohol plus acetaminophen puts a double dose of stress on the liver,” writes Emily Sohn in the Los Angeles Times. And ibuprofen and similar drugs can irritate the lining of the stomach, just like alcohol does, raising the risk of bleeding.

Help for Heartburn
Solve heartburn and hangovers at once: Go easy on alcohol, which relaxes the muscle that keeps stomach acid out of your esophagus. Fatty food is another trigger, says, so when the holiday turkey comes around, pick white meat, not dark (and lay off the gravy). And WebMD points out that chocolate is a particular offender. The obvious solution? Christmas cookies — just a couple.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest