Give yourself the gift of emotional health
It’s totally normal to get frazzled if the turkey burns or Fido eats the gift-wrap, but feeling overwhelmed by fatigue, irritability or sadness are not the best ways to spend “the most wonderful time of the year.”
“Without a doubt, more people carry stress during the holidays,” explains Hanish Sethi, M.D.,  board-certified psychiatrist with The Christ Hospital Physicians--Behavioral Health. “And if left unchecked day-to-day, these emotions can quickly morph into anxiety and depression.”
Dr. Sethi sees patients who are dealing with stress stemming from some pretty common themes. Shopping, cooking, eating more and staying up later can all take a physical toll. Accommodating relatives, finding time to celebrate with friends and still caring for your family can backfire from fun to stressful with just one party. And, if you’re too generous with your gift giving, your bills could stress you out well into next year.
Use these strategies to turn holiday chaos into calm:
- Be realistic. Overextending yourself can leave you exhausted, making it easy to latch on to poor lifestyle habits, like fast-food dinners and ignoring the treadmill. Prioritize professional and personal commitments and know when to say no. It will allow you to enjoy the holiday traditions and events that matter most to you.
- Make friends with winter. Cincinnati winters have much to offer. Take to the slopes for a day of skiing or snowboarding at the Perfect North Slopes , check out the ice rink at Fountain Square, attend a Bengals game, relax at a nearby water resort, or visit the Cincinnati Zoo . Staying active helps the body release pleasure-inducing endorphins and gives you a mental break from your worries.
- Accept your relationships. Family traditions can sometimes change as in-laws enter the picture and children get older. Learn to accept change by thinking of it as the chance to try something new. And remember, it’s okay to count on your loved ones if you feel the holiday blues. “People suffering from stress and anxiety need more family interaction and more supportive relationships,” Dr. Sethi says.
- Trade your martini for a ‘mock-tini.’ It’s the holidays – you have permission to indulge, but be wary of alcoholic beverages if you’re dealing with anxiety or stress. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it blocks feel-good chemicals from getting to the brain. This will only complicate your emotional problems. “Alcohol use increases around the holidays, especially by those who feel anxious or depressed,” says Dr. Sethi. “They then tend to lunge deeper into use of drugs and alcohol.” If you need help avoiding the temptation during the holidays, attend a community support group .
- Discuss your holiday budget. Both economic uncertainties and unemployment are stressors for many Cincinnati families, but it doesn’t have to worsen around the holidays. Talk to your kids early about how things will be different this year, and consider starting a low-cost or no-cost holiday tradition, like volunteering or making your own tree ornaments.
If you need advice or strategies for coping with holiday stress, make an appointment with a physician. To find a physician near you, call 877-904-4YOU or visit www.TheChristHospital.com .