By Venkat Baskararajan, M.D.
The saying, “Everything in moderation, including moderation” in a way refers to the human need for indulgence and excess from time to time. All of us can remember eating a little more during Thanksgiving, celebrating a little late, or just waiting up for Santa past our bedtime. All of these little things make the holiday season more memorable.
When the excess and indulgence lasts more than a few days in a row, this can stress out our body. Our body and mind are not independent of each other, so any stress on the body reflects on how we feel or think. Watch out for stressors and keep some balance.
Some common stressors during the holidays and how to deal with them include:
• Eating Too Much or Too Little
Thanksgiving wouldn’t feel complete if you didn’t stuff yourself, but on most other days it’s important to eat right. Just don’t keep treating yourself to the candy bowl or cookie jar that’s laid out for guests every time you cross the living room.
For a lot of people it’s important to look their best during the holidays. They want to shed a few pounds before the family photograph is taken. Starving yourself or skipping meals for days or weeks together can add up to a lot of stress. This sometimes may even backfire and lead to emotional eating. Healthy foods and eating at proper times can give you the body that you need.
Eating unhealthily for days at a time has been shown to make people lethargic, down or irritable. So make sure to eat healthy.
• Sleeping Too Little or Too Much
It is very easy to get thrown off your schedule during the holiday season. You may end up sleeping too little as you may be doing some extra cooking and cleaning. Or you may end up sleeping more, because you don’t have to go to work.
On an average we need 7-8 hours of sleep, but it varies from person to person. Variation in sleep for more than a few days is a huge stress and can lead to mood swings, irritability, anxiety or depression. Not to mention the worsening of blood pressure or blood sugar if you have hypertension or diabetes. So try to get a good night’s rest at least five nights a week.
• Having Unrealistic Expectations
One the biggest causes of mental stress and anxiety is the need for everything to be perfect during the holidays. Wanting to find the perfect gifts or trying to have the home decorated perfectly can cause a lot of worry—but to some extent are in your control. Wanting the flights to be on time, wanting the traffic not to be horrible, wanting friends and family to be on time for the party, and expecting everyone to behave perfectly are things beyond your control.
Remember that the holidays are a time for compassion and giving. If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. So don’t beat yourself up for not having everything perfect or get angry if things did not go as planned.
Taking some deep breaths for one minute a few times a day can do wonders in alleviating your anxiety. Meditation can also help relieve stress and anxiety.
So have some fun this holiday season, but try to also have some balance in taking care of your mind, body, and spirit so you can enjoy the holidays to their fullest.
Dr. Baskararajan graduated from Adichunchanagiri in India. He completed his residency at UMC in Jackson, Ms where he represented the Psychiatry Residency Training Program at the resident symposium at Emory University and served as an active member or the residency administrative committee. Dr. Baskararajan has been a staff member at Pine Grove since 2009.
Please visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information about Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services.