Holiday stress is a killer.
I'm not exaggerating. You might think you have a one-in-12 chance of dying in any given month. But it doesn't work that way.
You stand a 9% chance of dying in December and a 9.4% chance in January. September and June are much lower at 7.7%.
Worse, the number of deaths spikes on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
The factors driving this wave of mortality are complicated. Many of the victims are in their older years. The Northern Hemisphere cold doesn't do them any favors. We're also stuck indoors with heaters and burning fireplaces. Those release particulate matter into the air, which can cause inflammation.
And inflammation, as we know, contributes to heart disease, America's number one killer.
But there's something more... You see, folks in New Zealand also experience this problem. Even though the country is in the Southern Hemisphere and has warm summer weather during December and January, its rates of mortality spike during the holidays, too.
So perhaps it's not your fireplace or snotty grandkid?
I believe the underlying factor is stress. When the holidays come around, we do too much, travel too much, spend too much, and – for some folks – log too many hours with our families.
That's what happens with holiday mortality. It's stress that often drives us to eat and drink. Stress also creates inflammation. Plus, it weakens your immune system, making the other seasonal factors more dangerous.
As we head into the months of highest mortality, I want to hand you a playbook for reducing your stress levels immediately. I compiled a list of ways to lower your financial stress as well as your physical stress in my latest issue ofRetirement Millionaire.
Here are three of those tips... These methods are all proven to improve our health. They are simple and quick. They don't require costly medications (meaning they lack side effects and adverse reactions).
So rather than stumble through another round of stressed – and dangerous – holidays, do what I do... with my list of ways to kick the holiday blues...
1) Sunlight. You can stave off the holiday blues by spending time in the sun. One reason people feel depressed in the winter – known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – is mostly due to a lack of sunlight. Many of us leave for work in the morning when it's dark and come home in the evening after sundown. This wreaks havoc on mental health.
Get outside, even when it's cold, and go for a brisk walk around midday. You can also try a sunlight lamp in your room to simulate sunlight and its benefits. Plus, sunlight helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles.
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2) Walking. This simple exercise helps fight depression by releasing chemicals called endorphins. These feel-good chemicals make us feel less stressed. What's more, walking just 20 minutes a day boosts your immune system and even fights diabetes.
So do what I do and follow the 20-20 rule – wait 20 minutes after eating and then walk for 20 minutes, especially if you can do it in the sunshine. You'll be surprised by how energized you feel.
3) Being social. Feeling alone at the holidays causes undue stress. Worse, loneliness and social isolation increase your risk of early death by as much as 50%. And evidence points to loneliness and isolation contributing to Alzheimer's disease. Get out, even if it's just to a store.
If you're alone this holiday season, try joining a special-interest club or volunteering for a local cause. Reach out to friends and family or try visiting folks in a long-term-care facility – chances are they're also lonely this time of year.
This time of year serves as a good reminder to take stock of both our wealth and health. And nothing is better than practicing stress-reduction techniques year-round. Put these strategies into place today for a stress-free holiday season.
These are just three of the tips I gave my readers this season. To get my top two health tips, along with how to take the stress out of your portfolio, read the full issue right here.
And if you aren't a subscriber yet, get started with a subscription today.Retirement Millionaire offers investment insights and recommendations each month along with health and lifestyle tips to help you live a full, healthy, prosperous retirement. New subscribers can get their first year for a fantastic price right here.
- Cleveland Clinic offers a checklist for managing your holiday stress.
- Something different: The last of the iron lungs.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
November 30, 2017