TMH Living Well: Stay healthy during holidays

Holidays often are filled with joy and fun, but also stress. For many people, holidays create a long list of obligations and interrupt comfortable routines. For others, holidays bring up hard memories or accentuate feelings of loneliness.

The best way to avoid stress and depression during the holidays is to stay aware and watchful. If Uncle Joe starts a political rant that makes your blood pressure rise, graciously exit the room. If you feel sadness about the death of a loved one, acknowledge your feelings and find a safe person and place to express it. If you feel pulled this way and that, thoughtfully decide what events you really want to attend and decline most of the rest. In other words, take care of yourself and honor your truths.

Here are some tips that will help you stay on track for a low-stress holiday season:

Stay realistic. Your holiday doesn’t have to be a Norman Rockwell painting of perfection. You don’t have to show up for every event or stun the world with your creative gifts and exuberant cheer. Instead, pick a few meaningful traditions and events and carry them out well. Attend those that feed your interest and include people you truly care about and enjoy.

“Try not to get focused on having the perfect Hollywood Christmas. Instead, keep things simple. You don’t have to have the best-decorated house or the biggest Christmas event. Instead, think simple. If you are having a dinner, make it a potluck. If you need to bring a gift, make it homemade — a jar of jam or homemade candy,” suggested Neilene Folks, PA-c, physician assistant with the The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic.

Spending more than you can afford on gifts is stressful. You don’t have to break the bank to create a great Christmas for the kids.

“Your children will remember the time spent together frolicking in the snow or playing games with the family long after the thrill of the gifts is gone. Remember, they don’t need everything they want to have a wonderful Christmas,” Folks added.

Stick to your healthy habits. It’s tempting to see the holidays as a free-for-all. However, overindulgence of sweets and skipping your usual physical activities will leave you feeling stressed, fatigued and out-of-sorts. Maintain these routines as best as you can.

“The holidays are the best time of year to exercise. Exercising helps you kick out endorphins, which help reduce stress and your reaction to stress. If you don’t have an exercise plan, it’s a good time to start one,” Folks said.

She advises people to get outside this time of year to combat the drudgery of shorter days and less sunlight, and to increase sun exposure to help boost levels of Vitamin D. “Low Vitamin D can lead to fatigue and this just adds to the overall stress people feel during the holidays," she said. Today is the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year.

Folks said that eating a healthy diet, drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep and limiting fats, carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine and sweets will keep you feeling good and give you energy to endure all that comes your way.

Find your calm. In the middle of the hustle and bustle, stop. Remember to take time for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes alone without distractions to take a walk or do a favorite activity. If you are grieving or feeling sad, acknowledge your feelings. Share them, write about them or release them by listening to music or getting out in nature.

“Doing a hobby or activity you like can help you find your calm, so don’t tuck away those walking shoes, that novel or your crocheting needles for after the holidays. Do what relaxes you, especially during busy times. Times of relaxation will help you control your stress and let you avoid the symptoms of stress, including fatigue, irritability, frequent illnesses and poor sleep,” Folks said.

Neilene Folks and her colleague Cinde Porter are physician assistants alongside Dr. Jon Hamilton with Family Medicine Services at TMH Medical Clinic, 785 Russell St., in Craig. The clinic is currently accepting new patients. The clinic accepts insurance including Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and a sliding scale where needed.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

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