If you're living with a chronic illness, you're in the right place.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Everyone Alive?

5:39 AM Posted by Tiffany Taft , ,
Another Hanukkah and Christmas season have passed us by.  So much preparation for what seems like a day that goes by in about 12 minutes.  I spent most of yesterday cooking, including a turkey marked by the 3 Bs:  Brine, Butter, and Bacon - because in this house, we're all about healthy eating at Christmas.

The holidays are a stressful time of year for many.  Running to crowded malls for last minute gifts, cooking extensive meals for 14 of your closest relatives, and mentally preparing for that one uncle who starts the political/religious/moral arguments while passing the stuffing.  It's no wonder that December has one of the highest suicide rates of the year.  Or does it?

I'm guessing that you've heard this factoid:  people are more likely to commit suicide around the holidays.  Well, researchers have studied this trend and found that this simply isn't true.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates do not increase November-January but tend to rise in the spring (although they're not sure why).  One study out of the University of Pennsylvania found that suicide rates were actually lowest in this time frame when compared to the rest of the year.

You serious, Clark?
For those living with a chronic medical illness, the holidays can bring unique challenges.  Having to explain to your great Aunt Helen why you can't eat certain foods, or why "cleaning your plate" may result in hours in agony in the bathroom.  Finding the strength through overwhelming fatigue to sit and visit when your bed is screaming your name.  Answering questions about your health like "are you better yet?" or "when are you going to get over this?"  And my favorite, fielding suggestions like "my friend's sister's brother-in-law's uncle's wife is a physician and she says that eating lemon rinds is great for [insert name of your condition here]."

Thank you, Simone.
Knowing that even with all of the craziness of the holiday season, we're more likely to start to feel sad or blue after it's all over behooves us to check in with our mental well-being the next few months.  One of the reasons we suspect that suicide rates don't rise around the holidays is because of the increase in social support, for better or worse, that happens this time of year.  So keeping up with friends or family who are important to you, who make you feel good, and are healthy people to be around is key in the coming weeks.

Here are a few other things you can do to beat the post-holiday blues:
  • Get up and get outside, even if it's for an hour. Fight the urge to stay in bed (or on the sofa) all day.
  • Schedule some time for yourself to do something you enjoy.  Put it on your calendar with a reminder, and treat it like you would any important meeting to prevent blowing it off.
  • Meet up with a good friend for lunch/coffee/just to chat and talk to them about what's going on.
  • Try to keep up with social activities even if you don't feel like it.  If you go and feel overwhelmed, you can always leave later.
  • Take the pressure off yourself for perfection (or near-perfection). 
  • Exercise regularly, whether it's going for a walk or hitting the gym for an hour. Both are effective in boosting your mood. A 10 minute walk can boost your mood for up to 2 hours!
  • Don't skip meals as the dips in blood sugar can make you irritable and tired. 
  • Check your self-talk.  What we tell ourselves has an enormous impact on our mood.  
And, my personal favorite:  Find something to laugh about.  Here's a good place to start.

Dr. T