BEING APART DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Spend Time with Those in Your Household
- Hard choices to be apart this year may mean that you can spend many more years with your loved ones.
- Do what is best for your health and the health of your loved ones. This year spend time with those in your own household. If you live alone, reach out to loved ones and friends online, on the phone or video chat. Be together apart. Social distancing doesn’t mean emotional distancing.
Take Care of Yourself
- Being away from family and friends during the holidays can be hard.
- When you talk with your friends and family about plans-it’s okay if you decide to stay home and remain apart from others. It’s okay if others decide they want to remain apart from you and other people.
Do What’s Best for Your Household
- Doing what’s best for you includes eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep.
- Take care of your body and stay active to lessen fatigue, anxiety, and sadness.
MENTAL HEALTH AND THE HOLIDAYS
The holiday season is just around the corner and while many look forward to festivities with friends and family, others can experience an increase in stress, anxiety and depression. With COVID-19 on the rise, planning ahead and being aware of your emotions can help you be prepared with a coping skill when
you experience a holiday trigger.
Begin or continue therapy
Although the holidays are typically a busy time, be sure to keep your scheduled therapy sessions or begin therapy if you are having trouble managing your stress, anxiety or depression. The holidays can bring up difficult feelings and having a scheduled therapy session gives you the time to explore and work through them.
Make time for yourself. Find something that reduces your stress and helps clear your mind. Try taking a walk, listening to music or podcast, reading a book, talking to a good friend or watching a favorite movie.
Set realistic expectations
The holidays don’t have to be perfect. Traditions evolve and change as families grow. Be sure to stick to your budget and manage your time and travel schedule so you can relax and be present with your loved ones.
Limit alcohol use
Alcohol use is known to increase during this time. Instead of trying to relax with alcohol, make a cup of your favorite warm tea and try to practice mindfulness or other healthy activities.
Get some sun
Spending time outdoors in the sun can be an effective centering and calming tool. Even people who are not diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern can benefit from spending time in nature and planning ahead to be outdoors on sunny days.
Ask for help
If you feel alone or depressed, reach out for support. Family, friends, religious or community organizations can help.
GETTING AHEAD: HEART HEALTH FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Because statistics show the months of December and January are the most stressful of all, and more heart attacks occur during this time, here are a few simple ways to ease into the holidays.
Breathe. Take deep breaths, in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Square breathing also works—it refocuses your mind. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, release for 4 seconds, and remain calm for 4 seconds. Over a small span of time, any anxiety you may feel is reduced. No one can have a panic attack while they perform deep breathing exercises, as the brain and body slows down.
Walk and Self-Talk. One time a day for 30 minutes, one day at a time, is what cardiologists say is a simple way to get moving, every day. Breaking a small sweat while telling yourself positive and encouraging words, such as, “I can do this,” is an excellent way to begin.
Limit alcohol and caffeine. Known as “holiday heart”, this syndrome occurs when people indulge in too much alcohol, which could trigger a heart rhythm disorder, known as atrial fibrillation. Moderation is key. Doctors say individuals with existing heart disease are more vulnerable, but holiday heart also strikes in perfectly healthy individuals, too.
Make quality sleep a priority.
As sleep experts tell HMC in “Secrets to Help You Improve Sleep,” lack of quality sleep leads to brain fog, poor food choices, possible anxiety and potential accidents. Keep screens out of your bedroom and shut off an hour before bed. It will help create a restful environment that will support the movement you incorporate in your day.
Plan to talk with your healthcare provider.
If you are prone to high blood pressure, knowing your numbers is key. Make a telehealth appointment or in-person visit to your doctor ahead of the holidays. The American Heart Association has an online 6-Question Quiz on improving blood pressure. Complete, print off and take with you to your doctor to discuss.
SECRETS TO HELP YOU IMPROVE SLEEP
Sitting up in the middle of the night due to restlessness and ruminating about the work day, personal family issues or finances is exasperating. Quality sleep seems out of reach. For many individuals these days, this is very common. Sleep experts say to in order improve your quality of sleep, set the following intentions:
- Hit the stop button when you leave work, and leave work at work.
- Focus on objects in front of you in order to regain your sense of being present in the moment.
- Ask family and friends to not call after a certain hour in the evening. Setting boundaries enables a pathway to sleep success.
- Treat yourself like a toddler an hour before your bedtime.
- A warm bath, devices off or out of the bedroom, and gentle breathing or reading a favorite book can help set the tone.
- If you have a pet, connect with him or her, pet it, hold it, talk to it, in order to be present, sleep experts suggest.
For individuals who have a sleep disorder, like insomnia, consider it with the same seriousness a primary care physician would treat a major illness—it needs attention. Lack of quality sleep leads to brain fog, poor food choices, possible anxiety and potential accidents. Work productivity falls.
Sleep apnea is another sleep disorder where pauses in breathing followed by loud snoring occur. When untreated, sleep apnea can create long-term problems that exacerbate underlying medical conditions, like endocrine or heart-related disorders. It can also impact your chance of getting hypertension.
Another tip: If you cannot fall back to sleep within 20 minutes of waking, go into another room that is dimly lit and relax. Notice when you begin to feel sleepy and return to bed.
For chronic worriers, 60 minutes before bed write down all your concerns—work, family, health or otherwise. Tally up all mistakes made, for example—it will provide a sense of mastery and accomplishment before your head hits the pillow.
For more sleep tips, visit our latest podcast with Dr. Marty Martin, national sleep expert and behavioral health psychologist here.