Bah Humbug! Avoiding Holiday Stress

By: Alere Staff

Just hearing the word “holidays” can make the palms of some people sweaty. It is the time of highs and lows for many but the common theme for all is stress. Whether you are traveling or opening your doors to family and friends, your day-to-day life will no longer be normal until things settle down after the holidays.
Stress and Your Body

Stress does not always have to be negative and can affect each person differently. Our body has developed stress as a mental response to a demand. Nerve chemicals and hormones released during stressful times can help an animal to prepare to face a threat or flee from safety.1 While we don’t want to flee from our relatives as they come to the door with holiday treats, we don’t want to perceive them as a threat to our life either.

Many things can trigger our brain’s stress response, including change, and these triggers can be long term or short term. Perhaps the hardest thing to notice, though, is how your health can change from constant stress.1 You may not think of the holidays as a “constant” stress, but for nearly three months of the year, some people are facing more demands from work, family and friends. These demands may not seem terrible at first, as they may include party invitations, cooking and shopping, but you may not realize that your body is overwhelmed.

If you are one of the many people who take warfarin, then you’re likely in a routine of taking your medicine and testing your INR. When the holidays arrive you could find yourself changing your routine. Below are a few tips to make sure that no matter what this holiday season brings, you’ll not stress over the most important thing: your health.

Remembering Your Medications

If your medications are kept in the kitchen, consider moving them to a place where they will not get mixed up with kitchen clutter or exposed to any visitors. If you use a home INR monitor, move it and your warfarin to a private and quiet place where you’ll test until the holidays are over. If you move your medications, put them in an area with good lighting so you can see what you’re taking. During the holidays, it makes sense to double check to make sure you take the right medicine and the right dose. It can also help to set an alarm or mark a calendar to remind yourself to both test and take your medicine. Doing so can serve as extra reminders during those particularly crazy days.

More good ideas include keeping your doctor’s office phone number, pharmacy phone number and medical records with your medicines as well as making sure you have enough medication if you’re traveling. Notify your doctor of the number of a pharmacy where you’ll be so he or she can call in your prescription if needed.

Watching Your Diet

You will be eating different foods at different times including foods like fruitcake (low in vitamin K). Since certain foods may have an effect on your INR it is good to be more aware of what you are consuming and remembering to keep your diet balanced. You can also check out the Vitamin K Finder as a quick reminder about levels of vitamin K in certain holiday foods.

Other ways that stress can affect your diet is by overeating or drinking too much alcohol to “manage” stressful situations.2 Eating and drinking too much may not only effect INR levels, but can also hurt your digestive system and make the next day unpleasant.

While stress alone will likely not have much effect on your INR, the decisions you make out of your normal routine will. The most important thing to do during this holiday season is to keep up the most important aspects of your normal routine like testing, taking your medication, exercising and sleep management. Above all, remember to keep a positive attitude and enjoy the holidays.


  1. Q&A on Stress for Adults: How It Affects Your Health and What You Can Do About It. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved November 26, 2014 on the NIMH website:
  2. Stress and Heart Health (June 13, 2014). American Heart Association. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from the AHA website at: