Combating Holiday Stress

Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas will be here soon. Everyone is aware that the holiday season provides extra opportunities not only to be with loved ones but also to experience extra stress. Stress is good- in moderation. Our bodies require good stress (the medical term is eustress) to stay alive.

Experimental data has proven this; stress is essential for continued existence. Unfortunately, there is a small margin of error between good stress that keeps us alive and bad stress (distress) that will age the body faster. So, the critical question is “How can we prevent distress from overcoming eustress?” Mental and physical exercise both play a key role…

My family’s plan was to fly to New Braunfels the weekend before Thanksgiving for an early celebration due to schedule conflicts. As it was cheaper to fly private and we had access to a small plane, we would drop a friend off in Midland on the way. (This allowed us to avoid the invasive TSA screeners. Ask me to tell you about our honeymoon sometime…) We had an uneventful flight to Midland Airpark, dropped our friend off, and taxied to the runway. We stopped to wait for another plane to land, received our clearance, and I advanced the throttle.

Most people have experienced a flat tire. In a car you hear a distinctive sound and the car tends to pull hard to the side of the flat. In a plane the engine noise drowns out the sound but the pull is even greater as there are only three wheels. We were fortunate that the mesquite thorn on the taxiway caused a fast leak prior to takeoff. A slow leak could have been catastrophic as it wouldn’t have been evident until landing. A flat tire will act like a locked brake, bringing one side of the plane to a quick stop while the other side is still going 90 mph- typically not a good outcome and one of the reasons larger planes have two wheels per axle.

My wife and kids did wind sprints in the maintenance hanger while a wonderful mechanic from Basin Aviation replaced the flat tire. (We learned that it doesn’t help the stress factor when a 5 year old is looking over your shoulder and asking questions.) We loaded back up in the plane only to discover that the alternator belt had also decided to take a holiday. Overnight stay in Midland, the plane was fixed around noon and we arrived in time for family photos.

Everyone experiences holiday stress. It may be due to a family member that knows the right buttons to push, it may be due to travel-related malfunctions, or it just may be the crowded environment. How you respond to the stress determines the effect on your body. Say the Serenity Prayer, meditate, or exercise. Accept what you can’t change (others and environment), change what you can (self), and keep the stress from changing you. Go outside, walk, and look at nature. Exercise helps your mind and body respond better in stressful situations.

Final centrifuge recovery update- I think I’m back to 99% of normal (my normal- don’t laugh). I don’t have medical data to support it but I would venture to say that centrifuge training is NOT good stress.

Disclaimer: Dr Stephen Rath, MD, DABA is a board certified anesthesiologist as well as the owner and medical director of Fusion Medical Spa located in Ruidoso, NM. He is not a family psychotherapist but he has dealt with many family members needing psychotherapy. Comments or questions? His email address is: