What’s even more nerve-wracking than paying taxes?

The holidays, according to a majority of Americans, who say it takes them weeks to recover from seasonal stress. 

“The holidays are an easy time to justify putting off healthy habits, but it’s important to manage chronic stress and other risk factors to stay healthy during the holiday season and into the New Year,” said Dr. Glenn Levine, lead writer of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2021 statement on psychological health, well-being and the mind-heart-body connection.

He warned in an AHA news release that chronic stress that isn’t managed can have a negative impact on long-term mental and physical health.

And the holiday season provides a perfect storm of stressors, as folks struggle to balance work, family, budgets and everyday obligations as well as the festivities that make this time of year special.

That’s why 63% of respondents in the AHA’s new nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. adults called the holidays more stressful than tax season, and 51% said it takes them weeks to bounce back. 

The holidays can be especially trying for moms, the survey showed. More than a quarter of mothers said it takes them a month or more to regain equilibrium.

Almost 80% of respondents said they’re so intent on making the season special for others that they neglect their own needs.

Priorities that fall by the wayside include eating healthy (69%), exercising regularly (64%) and getting enough sleep (56%), the survey found.

Folks’ biggest regret? Seven in 10 said it’s not taking time to chill out and enjoy themselves.

“Chronic stress can negatively impact both your long-term mental and physical health in many ways if left untreated,” Levine, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, warned in an AHA news release. 

These tips from the heart association can help you manage holiday stress:

Eat right: Keep portions reasonable. Add colorful fruits and veggies to your plate and know which foods to avoid.

Move more: Take a short walk every day, because physical activity is one of the best tools for managing stress. Any amount of movement will help.

Sleep well: Good sleep influences your mood, eating habits, memory and more, the AHA notes. An alarm can remind you to silence your phone and start winding down for the day

One of the most important aspects of the season is connecting with others. Tell others if you feel stressed out and lean upon one another to feel better, the AHA advises.

More info

The Mayo Clinic has tips for heading off holiday stress.