How to keep holiday from killing you

Snowman
A melting snowman lays in a park in Duesseldorf, western Germany, on January 28, 2013.
MARTIN GERTEN/AFP/Getty Images

This time of year can be busy and stressful. While many obligations can be joyful, the season often leads to additional stress.

Mayo Clinic stress expert Dr. Amit Sood joins The Daily Circuit to discuss the steps he recommends to lower stress and enjoy the holidays. Sood's upcoming book is "The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living."

Highlights from our conversation:

• "When you meet your loved ones, don't try to improve them. ... Bring extra gratitude for the time together."

• "Holidays, particularly around Christmas and New Year's, are the times when we experience the greatest stress. Actually your risk of heart attack, stroke, even sudden death are substantially higher during this time. ... This is a time when you are quite vulnerable."

• "Actually, the more celebratory the holiday, the higher your risk. This is a time when we overdo it. This is a time when we put our relationships and our emotional life into a stress test. We try to overachieve, we become perfectionist, we cram too much, we don't sleep well, we forget our medications, we don't seek early enough care because we don't want to disturb anybody. All that leads to worse outcomes."

• "The main challenge we are facing in the 21st century is a very busy brain. We're all overextended. I'm sure you have more than 20 passwords. You have perhaps a dozen or more bills to pay. Our ancestors didn't have that."

• "The three most important things in holidays are relationships, relationships and relationships. Binge on quality time with your loved ones. Do not focus too much on being a perfectionist or cramming too much. Try not to be an overachiever. Keep free time. Don't fall off the wellness and budget bandwagon. And do something to honor the tradition. This is a time of hope. This is a time of forgiveness. This is a time of gratitude. Be extra kind to yourself."

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