Minimizing the holiday risks

Courtesy of Getty Images

Thinking about the holidays can elicit a variety of feelings from excitement to dread. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, socializing, baking and traveling are activities that usually increase during the holidays.

For some, Christmas is seen as a festive time to spend time with family, share gifts, and eat good food. For others who perhaps have unhappy memories of the holidays or have lost a loved one, there may be a sense of grief and sadness.

According to the American Psychological Association, over 38% of those surveyed describe Christmas as a time of increased stress, and this can affect you in a variety of ways. Depression, financial stress, overeating and fatigue can increase during the holidays.

Depression

Although depression can occur at any point during the year, some may experience an increase in sadness during the holidays. Among the common factors that can contribute to depression are unrealistic expectations of yourself and others, family discord, and loneliness.

With the seasonal decrease in sunlight and shortened days during holidays, there can also be increased risk for depression. Signs that you may be experiencing depression include lack of interest or enjoyment in activities, feeling down, depressed or hopeless, and low energy.

If you have been experiencing these signs for two weeks or more, you may benefit from scheduling an appointment with your primary care or mental health provider. If you feel like giving up or are having thoughts to harm yourself, call 1-800-273-6255 or text 741741 for help 24/7.

Asking for help is a sign of strength and an acknowledgement that you have made a decision to take steps to help yourself feel better. Make time for activities that can reduce your stress and improve your mood, such as going for a walk, exercising, stretching, playing games and listening to music.

If you find yourself preoccupied with negative thinking, make a gratitude list and carry it with you. Spending time with loved ones and caring friends may be helpful during times of sadness. Many find that engaging in spiritual and religious activities also helps lift their mood.

Overeating

The two months between Halloween and New Year’s Day have been referred to as “the eating season.” Many families celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas by cooking massive amounts of food. Often more cookies, candies, cakes and pies are baked during the season, and it can be very tempting.

The holidays may arouse many emotions, some of them painful, and this can lead to emotional eating. People engage in emotional eating not because they are hungry, but because they are using food to make themselves feel better.

If you find that your hunger comes on suddenly and you are not satisfied when your stomach is full, or if you crave certain comfort foods, you may be eating emotionally. On average, people gain one to two pounds during the holidays, but you can manage your eating to maintain your normal weight. With portion control and moderation, you can still enjoy your holiday favorites, even sweets.

Financial stressors

The holidays are times when you are at risk for overspending. In 2018, the average shopper spent an estimated $885 leading up to Christmas (Investopedia.com). Taking the time to make a list and budget may help you save money and take control of your finances.

For those living on a fixed income or low wages, it is particularly important to identify the amount of money that you can spend without digging yourself into a financial hole. There are some stores that have the option of layaway where you can pay for the gifts over time. Walmart, Burlington and some Game Stop, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and many jewelry stores offer layaway plans. You can also take advantage of the holiday sales that often begin before the traditional Black Friday shopping day.

Next, you need to decide who is on your gift list. Once you look at available funds, you may need to reduce the number and types of gifts you plan to buy. Just because someone gives you a gift does not mean that you have to buy them one.  

Some have chosen to opt out of gift giving during the Christmas holidays altogether. They instead give gifts at other times during the year when they see things that they believe the person would like. This may be difficult, however, in families with small children who have come to expect receiving presents at this time of the year.

Fatigue

When the holidays are approaching, people often experience a change in routine and behavior. There are a number of preparations to be made for those who decide to celebrate Christmas. Increased shopping, cooking, social obligations, and coordination of all of these activities can lead to fatigue.

It is not uncommon for there to be an increase in sleep disturbances such as inability to fall asleep, waking up frequently, or waking up too early. With holiday festivities, there may be more frequent use of alcohol, which can also interfere with your ability to have restful sleep.

Development of a routine where you go to bed and get up at the same time can help regulate your sleep. Reducing screen time and sleeping in a darkened room may also be helpful.

Developing your own traditions, love, and giving of yourself can be the foundation of family celebrations that can continue beyond the holidays.

Deirdre Annice Golden, Ph.D., LP, is director of Behavioral Health for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic, 1313 Penn Ave. N. She welcomes reader responses to Deirdre.Golden@co.hennepin.mn.us, or call 612-543-2705.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *