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The physical and mental impact of a stressful holiday 

22 December 2023

The physical and mental impact of a stressful holiday 

 New research from the Health and Life Insurer, Vitality, has uncovered that despite the festive period being the jolliest time of the year to many, more than half (53%) of Brits feel a sense of pressure during this time which impacts their health and wellbeing, as stress takes a physical toll on their health.   

The survey of 2,000 people across the UK found that the biggest causes of stress were having to buy people presents (40%), financial concerns (39%), and ensuring everyone else is having a good time (29%). It also found that those between 18-34 were perhaps embracing the festivities too much, as they were the most likely to feel overwhelmed by the number of social arrangements during the period (42%).   

The research also unpacked the impact stress was having on Brits’ health and wellbeing, with a third (30%) admitting to having their physical and mental health being negatively affected at Christmas. With one in four (24%) predicting their stress and anxiety physically manifesting in the form of exhaustion (19%), headaches, migraines (11%), and enduring stomach issues (11%). With a clear link to reduced health, you’d expect us to be a nation of Grinches, however, the UK remains a holiday loving Kingdom, with three-quarters (76%) of Brits saying they enjoy celebrating this time of year. 

With this being said, the nation is taking steps to look after themselves during this time of year, such as budgeting their money (28%) and taking time out (23%). Even going sober (5%) and talking to a third party, such as a therapist (3%). However, with stress comes the possibility of falling into bad habits and leaning into vices such as smoking and vaping (5%). The top 10 list of ways Brits are coping with pressures felt of the festive season include:  

1. Budgeting my money (28%) 
2. Taking time out (23%) 
3. Spending more time with family and friends (18%) 
4. Recognising personal limits and being honest with people (17%) 
5. Talking to friends and family (16%) 
6. Saying no to some festivities (16%) 
7. Setting boundaries (16%) 
8. Leaning into vices e.g. drinking and smoking (5%) 
9. Going sober (5%) 
10. Going away (4%) 

Yetunde Bankole, Lead Mental Health and Wellbeing Coach at Vitality said: “While the majority of people enjoy the festive period and what comes with it, it’s important to recognise that this time of year also brings about many challenges and mixed emotions, which means we need to prioritise our health and wellbeing. It’s worrying that some people are pointing towards vices such as drinking and smoking as coping mechanisms for the pressures of the festive season, as we know that these have a negative impact on our long-term physical and mental wellbeing. So if you yourself are feeling extra pressure, take some time out and try and spend some time outdoors and do something positive for your health and wellbeing – going for a walk and clearing your mind can really help!  

One of the biggest tips I can give is to carve out at least an hour a day. Spend 10 minutes of this to use an app like Headspace to clear your mind and unwind, and then use the rest of the time getting some steps in. Going for a crisp winter walk is a great way to do both as you can listen to a podcast. Taking this time out for yourself on a regular basis is vital to protect your wellbeing, and to ensure you’re able to maintain these healthy habits throughout the duration of the festive period.” 

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