The holidays stir up all kinds of emotions, some positive and some not-so-happy. This time of year can be fun with family gatherings, work parties, and tree-trimming. But too many obligations can cause stress and anxiety for many people. Not being with loved ones can increase depression. Ernest Tubbs and Elvis Presley knew all about having a “Blue Christmas.”
If you’re coping with a chronic medical condition, you may already feel pulled in different directions balancing treatments, appointments, and family life. Adding social events and the holiday rush can double the stress. So, how can you balance personal challenges with the holiday stress this year?
Tips for treasuring the holidays:
- What are you doing New Year’s Eve? We may receive several invites from family and friends in the upcoming weeks, and we may feel obligated to say yes to each one. However, stretching our time too thin or disrupting our routine can exacerbate medical problems, increase exhaustion, and cause irritability (and who wants to be irritable during the jolly holidays?). TIP: Pick one or two events to attend and politely decline others.
- Forget the fruitcake. It’s always important to be aware of what we’re putting into our bodies, especially when there is a medical condition present. Holiday events inevitably involve food—most of which is made of sugar (cookies, cakes, candy) and gluten (bread, pastries, pasta). These kinds of foods can cause increased pain and inflammation, increased blood sugar, and gastrointestinal problems. It’s OK to enjoy a bite or two, but fill your plate with healthy choices. TIP: Bring a healthy dish (like salad or roasted veggies) to the party.
- Limit the hot buttered rum. Many of us enjoy toasting our loved ones by the crackling fire or ringing in the new year with some bubbly. Be aware that alcohol not only lowers inhibitions, but also can cause problems with sleep and attention. It can cause inflammation to achy joints and can increase blood sugar. Alcohol can also interact with prescription medications, which can be a dangerous cocktail. TIP: Raise one glass or shake up your own “mocktail.”
- Run, Rudolf, run. I get funny looks when I go out for a jog on Christmas morning, but I know it will help reduce anxiety, lift my mood, and burn a few extra calories. Exercise is the best antidepressant and antianxiety agent around! Plus, going for a walk after a big dinner can help aid digestion. Going to the gym or for a walk around the block can give us a mental break from the family fun. TIP: Get off the couch and get moving!
- Settle in for a long winter’s nap. So many events and parties can be exhausting. Maintaining our regular sleep routine as much as possible will help us recover and get ready for the next day. Not getting enough rest can result in irritability, increased anxiety, or a depressed mood. Don’t be afraid to sneak out of a party early, especially when you’re feeling fatigued. TIP: Stick to your regular sleep routine as much as possible.
- Baby, it’s cold outside! Plan a night at home (preferably without TV, computers, or smartphones!) and enjoy each other’s company. Take time to snuggle up with your loved ones. Play a board game with the kids, light the fire, or make up your own family tradition. Isn’t family what the holidays are all about? TIP: Take a breather from the hustle and bustle.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful. We can enjoy our time with family and friends by setting limits with ourselves and others. Take time to take care of yourself and make time for those you love. Enjoy this holiday season!
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andrea M. Risi, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado
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