By Julie Busch, M.D.
Family Medicine Specialist
St. Anthony’s Medical Center
It’s the height of the holiday season – “the most wonderful time of the year”, according to a popular Christmas song. But for some people, those lyrics might more accurately read “the most difficult time of the year.”
Financial stress is always a problem this time of year, and the current economic environment may compound that problem for many families. Draw up a realistic budget for gift giving and stick to it. An inexpensive homemade “gift from the heart” often has more meaning than a pricey, glitzy item from the shopping mall.
Personal stress can consume you if you let it. The seemingly endless list of holiday chores – shopping, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, decorating, entertaining – can leave you worn out and even resentful. Budget your time like you budget your money – carefully. Keep your menus simple and easy to prepare and enlist help from other family members for the housecleaning chores – or just shut the bedroom doors and focus on the guest areas.
If you are facing greater than usual stress this year, because of unemployment, illness or loss of a loved one, it’s okay to acknowledge that you are sad or lonely or worried about the future. No one expects you to be the life of the party when you’re experiencing grief or depression. Sometimes, extending a hand to others less fortunate can transport you outside your own sadness. Volunteer a day at a soup kitchen or help wrap presents for a needy family. You always can find someone with greater problems than yours.
Remember, too, your physical health is an important factor in your mental state. This time of year we all tend to overindulge on alcohol and fattening food, while at the same time abandoning our exercise routines. We give ourselves permission to eat and drink to excess because “it only happens once a year.”
But our bodies don’t always accept that rationalization; and, too often, react to our overindulgence in undesirable ways. Too much rich food can cause nausea, bloating, heartburn, weight gain and a general feeling of malaise. Too much alcohol consumption can cause dehydration, dizziness, weakness, mood change, nausea and/or vomiting and, in the case of heavy drinking, a rapid-arrhythmic heartbeat that can require a hospital visit and medication.
Along with eating and drinking in moderation and incorporating exercise into your holiday schedule, be sure to get enough rest. Set aside some down time to take a break from the festivities.
Neglecting your body’s needs for good nutrition, adequate rest and regular physical activity can lower its resistance and make it more vulnerable to illnesses, such as viruses and infections. And no one wants to be sick during the holidays.
The holiday season is a special time to celebrate our family and friends. Savor the special seasonal treats, enjoy the conversation and the camaraderie and keep yourself and your family healthy and safe. Have a happy, healthy holiday season!
Dr. Busch, a family practitioner, is a member of St. Anthony’s Physician Organization. She practices at Kirkwood Family Medicine, 10296 Big Bend Blvd., 314-543-5943. For a referral to any St. Anthony’s physician, call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 1-800-554-9550.