Navigating Healthcare

Submitted By Diane L Marolla, LICSW,

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks Dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas Children laughing, people passing Meeting smile after smile. And on every street corner you hear” – The first few lyrics of the song Silver Bells written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is now here. The Christmas season can be a beautiful season of peace, joy, family, and giving, but unfortunately, it can be the source of stress for some individuals. There are some individuals who also get extremely depressed over the holidays. We hear and use the word “stress” a lot these days, but what does it actually mean and is it harmful?

Stress is a feeling of pressure, strain and anxiety. Normal stress is feeling pressure and anxiety temporarily and then you are able to “let it go” after the temporary stressor passes. Feelings of stress and anxiety become serious when it becomes pervasive. Constantly being in a “fight or flight” mode can create both mental and physical health complications where you may need to see a medical professional. Ongoing stress and anxiety can:

Raise your blood pressure and blood sugar
Increase food cravings
Lead to insomnia
Cause chronic headaches and can trigger migraines
Cause hair loss
Cause stomach problems
Cause back pain, acne and/or depression

Many individuals, during the Christmas season, become overwhelmed due to the demands that they put on themselves during the holiday. Society also tends to project demands on individuals that they need to be the perfect person, with the perfect gifts, cooking the perfect dinner, and setting the perfect holiday table. Individuals feel pressure to overperform and overspend during the Christmas season. If you feel you are someone who gets overly anxious and “stressed” during the Christmas holidays, here are some tips for you that work in eliminating feelings of strain, pressure, and anxiety:

Don’t spend excessive amounts of money on gifts. Remember, it truly is the thought that counts. Good things really do come in small packages.
If you don’t have the money for gifts, do not use plastic. If you have to break out your credit card, make sure you have money set aside to pay off the bill when it comes due.
Cut down your gift giving list. Do you really need to buy for everyone? If you always have a long gift list, consider shortening it. Tell individuals that you are cutting out gift giving this year. Also, if you have large family gatherings where you find yourself giving to everyone, suggest a Yankee Swap instead. You will only have one gift to buy, there is a spending limit that is designated, and it is FUN!
Just say NO to going to every party. You don’t have to go to everyone’s party. If you say no to an RSVP, don’t feel like you need to say why you won’t be attending.
Say NO to excessive amounts of alcohol during the holidays. It only leads to feelings of more anxiety and depression. If you do drink, drink responsibly.
It is not a good idea to drink excessively at a work related function. You don’t want to say, or do anything that you might regret the next day. If you want to be social at a work related event, “nurse” the drink.
Don’t go crazy decorating your house. A simple tree is just fine and looks beautiful. Remember, the more decorations, the more you have to take down after Christmas and then have to find a place to store it.
Don’t feel like you must wrap all gifts. Gift bags are just fine. They are easy, and people often recycle them.
If you volunteer to cook Christmas dinner every year for the family, consider doing a buffet instead. It is easier for you to cook and put the food out and let others serve themselves. Also, don’t be afraid to let the others do some cooking for you. We have so many wonderful caterers in Rhode Island that can prepare meals and desserts. Nobody needs to know if you didn’t cook the meal. I know one caterer who has a customer who actually brings her serving platters to them so that others think she made the meal.
If you do need to order a few gifts, order on line. It is easy, and you don’t need to deal with the madness of the stores.
If you have a family, consider a “family gift” instead. Choose an event that the whole family can do and spend time with each other.
Buy gifts from small businesses! They have the most unique items. They will help you pick out a gift, smile as they do it, appreciate you as a customer, and even wrap the gift for you. They also have gift cards too if you can’t decide on a gift.
Your pets feel the stress of the holidays too, so make sure to keep them in a secure location around the holidays. Ensure that they aren’t drinking the water for the Christmas tree. Ensure others are not feeding them food that can be harmful to them.
Do not strive for perfection. Have a mindset that you will do what you can do, and that is it.
Don’t over indulge in food and desserts and don’t forget to exercise. Yes it is hard to do with all of the goodies that you see, but you will only regret it and it will add to your anxiety. It is easy to put on those 5 to 10 pounds and much harder to then take it off.
Do something for someone in need. Helping others always makes you feel better, it truly does. Adopt a family who may need Christmas gifts for their children. Remember our veterans in the Veteran’s Home and see what can help them. Remember our pets in our shelters. Shelters can use a host of items not only during the holidays, but all year around!
Remember the true meaning of the holiday, which truly is peace on earth and good will towards others.

With all that said, I wish all of you peace and joy during the holiday season. May 2018 bring you good health, good times, and good fortune. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!