The stresses of the holidays are well-known and can have significant impact upon our physical and mental well-being.
However, preparation and a little reflection can help us enjoy our holidays to the fullest.
One of the greatest challenges of holiday time is the departure from a routine. Perhaps we have been working on an
exercise program or maybe eating healthier. These routines may be challenged and, if we are not careful, the healthful
habits we have been working weeks or months to build may falter.
Being off schedule often means less sleep, less physical activity and fewer wise food choices. Of course, the holidays
are full of comfort foods, snack foods and party foods - many of which are chock full of fat, caffeine, sugar, salt and
alcohol. When we talk about holiday foods and beverages, I think the main goal should be moderation.
Regarding food choices, try to minimize between-meal snacks. When you partake of those memorable holiday desserts,remember the importance of portion control. When you attend a holiday party or sit down for Thanksgiving dinner at
grandma's table, don't overdo it. Finally, try to work in a little rough-age. Be creative with salads and fresh
Sleep habits often are challenged by the stresses of a holiday schedule. It doesn't help that our intake of caffeine (a
stimulant) may increase. Try to follow good sleep hygiene. This means limiting caffeinated products and setting aside
at least seven hours for sleep. Try to keep the kids as close to their sleep schedules as possible. Otherwise, you can
expect some sad faces when the family visits and some challenging mornings when school starts up again.
Watch your alcohol intake. Above all, don't drink and
drive. If you plan to drink, make sure you have a designated driver. Alcohol-related accidents tend to increase over
the holidays. Also, don't drink too much. It lowers inhibitions, impairs judgment and mental functioning, and your body
simply doesn't like it.
Plan a few positive healthful behaviors for your holidays. Set aside some time each day to destress - perhaps 20
minutes of prayer or meditation, or just simply an afternoon nap. Try to get in some activity, too. One of my favorite
holiday activities is a walk around my parents' neighborhood after Thanksgiving to see the Christmas decorations going
up. You can walk at the mall, too. Remember that window shopping doesn't cost a thing. Exercise also is a great way to
balance those extra calories from holiday meals.
While for many, the holidays are a time of happiness and togetherness, for others, they can be a time of loneliness or
depression. If the holidays tend to give you the blues, make some plans for yourself to do something you enjoy. Don't
take on too many new stressors. Be sure to get plenty of rest. The winter months are a good time for us to all look out
for each other, too. Don't forget to extend a kindness or an invitation to those who may be sad or lonely.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a
board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Health Center in Towaoc.