Saturday, November 21, 2009


The “holiday season” seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year. With the hype of “black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving and the number one shopping day of the year, already building to a feverous pitch, I thought it might be helpful to dust off a piece I wrote several years ago about coping with the holidays.

While the strains of “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” may bring a smile to some, for others it makes their skin crawl. Whether you are caring for, or living with, chronic health problems, or have no health problems at all, the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving and running through January 1, can be a reminder that life is now different and old expectations or ideas no longer fit. With limited finances, changes in relationships, to say nothing of the piling snow in your driveway; it’s not surprising that many people become depressed, bored, frustrated, angry, and/or resentful.

For a time of year that is supposed to be about peace, love and good will, we over indulge, have unrealistic expectations, over spend our budget, try to do more than we can realistically do, which ultimately results in a “Holiday Hangover” that can last until Valentine’s Day. With that in mind, here are some tips for a Healthy and Happy Holiday season.

Humor: Being able to laugh will help you get through some of the difficult situations.

Alone: The holidays are about being together. If you need time to yourself, take it. However, if you are feeling lonely, reach out to family, friends, neighbors, your support group, church or social services. Consider volunteering at a community or religious function. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your social circle. You don't have to be alone.

Pace: Set the pace for what you feel comfortable doing, and what’s important to you. It’s ok to change traditions or let some go. Plan ahead as much as possible. However, if things change, be flexible and “go with the flow.”

Presents: Set a limit on what you can spend and don’t exceed it. Consider reducing the number of presents you need to make or buy by drawing names or holding a Yankee Swap. Give gift certificates of your time, or make special treats that you know people like. If it’s difficult to get out and shop, order from catalogues or on-line. A donation to a non-profit organization, or charitable group, is a gift that will last throughout the year.

Check out the Wednesday posts for things to make that you can give as presents.

Yesterday: “Don’t look back in anger, or ahead in fear, but around in awareness.” James Thurber You can’t change the past, or predict the future, so live in the present.

Health: You’re still in charge of your health care so you need to continue to exercise, take medications as prescribed, and watch what you eat and drink. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

Options: No is an option. People will understand if you can't do certain projects or activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you'll avoid feeling resentful and overwhelmed.

Let others do. Reduce stress by asking for help, and accepting it when it’s offered.

Ideal: The ideal holiday is the one you enjoy.

Differences: Try to accept the people in your life as they are, even if they don't live up to your expectations. The holidays are a stressful time for all, so let things slide and wait until after the first of the year for the discussions you’d like to have.

Acknowledge your feelings: It's okay now and then to take time just to cry or express your feelings. You don't have to force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season. If you find that you continue to remain sad, anxious, unable to sleep, feel hopeless, or unable to do routine activities, for several weeks, talk to your doctor.

You: Take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. Find the balance that allows you to be present for those that you love and care about, but not at the expense of harming yourself.

Sleep. Take time to get the rest and relaxation you need. Stay on your schedule so that you do have the energy for the fun and laughter. De stress with a massage, a bubble bath or curling up on the couch with a good book.

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