Friday, December 6, 2013

Managing Holiday Stress

Elizabeth Y. Fung, DO, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square building, discusses healthy tips for managing stress during the holiday season.

As the brilliant colors of the fall foliage fade and the crisp winter air settles in, a flurry of activities begin and it is now time to prepare for the holidays.

The holiday tradition started as a period of time set aside for religious or cultural celebrations. Today, many of us have an unrealistic or overly romantic notion of what the holidays should be, and often aren’t.

To help, here are a few tips to rekindle the holiday spirit:


  • Put together a list of what you expect from the holidays and be realistic with what can be accomplished.
  • If you’re looking to take it easy over the holidays, consider a vacation or simply a ‘stay-cation.’ Take it easy and relax, refresh and re-energize.
  • If family, friends and feasts are on your holiday horizon, prioritize commitments and schedule them on your calendar. Don’t forget to include time for rest and relaxation.
  • Plan your travels – purchase tickets in advance and arrive early for departure.

Holiday Gatherings

  • If you’re hosting a holiday party, divide up the menu and give guests an opportunity to prepare and “show off” one of their favorite dishes.
  • Prepare in advance – I have a patient who bakes 20 pies the week before her holiday parties in preparation to give to friends and relatives.
  • Those who break bread make bread together - Share in the peeling, dicing, chopping and cleanup in the kitchen. It is a great opportunity for everyone to catch up while preparing the meal.
  • Purchase prepared menu items to reduce the amount of cooking and increase the amount of family time.
  • Avoid overindulgence - have a healthy snack before your holiday parties, continue to exercise and get a good night’s sleep.

Gift Giving

  • Set a budget. You will be surprised how creative you can be with a budget in place.
  • Ask people what they want for the holidays. This eliminates the guesswork and holiday returns.
  • Online shopping – Shop at your leisure. Last year, I did most of my shopping online while on the train to/from work!
  • Get creative with gift-giving. During my medical training, I gave my brother and his wife a “gift certificate” redeemable for a weekend of babysitting my nieces and nephews.

Holiday Blues

  • Surround yourself with family and friends if you’re feeling lonely and sad. Reminiscing about the past, the loss of loved ones or being away from home during this time of the year can be difficult.
  • Volunteer – Helping others can help us better appreciate what we have.
  • Despite your best efforts, if you find yourself feeling severely anxious, persistently sad or hopeless and these feelings are affecting your daily activities, please talk to your doctor.
The holidays are an exciting time celebrating with family and friends. With some planning and a positive attitude, it is possible to be jolly during this season and to find peace and joy as we celebrate.

Happy Holidays!

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