7 Ways to Handle Holiday Season Stress

Beat holiday burnout and enjoy the season more
Author: Ian Landau

The holidays. Just the words can provoke strong feelings. Yes, holiday time brings with it loads of fun activities. But the glut of parties, shopping, school events, work events—and managing your own or your child’s bleeding disorder on top of all that—can be overwhelming. Looking at everything that’s on your plate at this time of year, you might shake your head and wonder, “How am I going to get all of this done?” For people managing a chronic illness like a bleeding disorder, the first thing to remember is that your physical and mental health come first.

Here are some other ways to avoid holiday burnout

1. Be honest with yourself about what you can comfortably do

You might love to travel to your aunt’s annual party. But if you’ve been coping with a port infection or your ankle’s been bothering you all fall, don’t add to the stress and risk bigger problems. Family and friends may be disappointed not to see you, but if you communicate honestly about why you can’t be present, they should understand. Suggest a FaceTime or Skype call so you can join in the fun from afar.

2. Ditch guilt

“Hey, it’s the holidays, lighten up.” “Get in the spirit.” “It’s the joyous season; be joyful.” For some of us, this is much easier said than done. It’s common to feel pressure to be constantly happy at the holidays. But if your family is struggling with complications from a bleeding disorder at a time when everyone and everything around you is saying you should be happy, the disconnect can make you feel guilty. Recognize this tendency and accept that it’s OK to have ups and downs.

3. Get organized

Making lists, planning and scheduling is stressful in its own right for some people, but such preparation will pay off when the holiday hubbub really hits. You don’t want to miss doctor appointments, skip infusions or scramble to gather medication and supplies before a trip because you’re distracted by gift buying, cooking or other holiday necessities. If you know what needs to be done, you can fit it into your schedule. After all, a bleeding disorder doesn’t take a holiday.

4. Be flexible

Despite your best-laid plans, odds are that something will go haywire during this time. It could be a spontaneous bleed when you’re supposed to leave for your sister’s potluck. Or your child may take a worrisome tumble at a party, requiring a trip to the hemophilia treatment center (HTC) to get it checked out. Do your best to roll with whatever comes. And hey, if nothing goes wrong, see it as an unexpected extra gift!

5. Commit to healthy habits

Ample rest, good nutrition and regular exercise are, of course, important year-round. Redoubling your commitment to them during the holidays helps ensure that you and your loved ones stay healthy through the busy days. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night, be wary of too many holiday indulgences like sweets and alcohol, and do something active every day, even if it’s just going for a 30-minute walk.

6. Balance solo and social time

Even for the most social of social butterflies, there can be a lot of “together” time at the holidays. It can be exhausting to repeatedly update well-meaning relatives who may not know much about bleeding disorders, but who understandably want to know how your family is doing. Or maybe your kids are driving you crazy asking about presents. Maintain your cool by scheduling downtime for yourself. Carve out 20 minutes a day to meditate, take a bath or go for a solo walk outside. This time gives your body and mind a chance to slow down, reset and reenergize.

7. Express gratitude

Take the time to pause, reflect and give thanks for the good things and people in your life. It’s sometimes easy to ignore or discount the positive. Has a new pain management plan allowed you to be more active? Did your child have a smooth transition to a new school? Is your HTC nurse a superhero who’s come to the rescue many times this year? Be thankful for these moments and people. Go one step further and send a card or note expressing your gratitude to the people whose help and support meant a lot to you this year. It may seem like a small gesture, but it’s bound to mean a lot to the person being thanked.

 

More holiday help

7 Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

5 Holiday Travel Tips for Bleeding Disorders Families