Niagara Gazette

December 18, 2013

BRADBERRY: Don't let stress ruin Christmas: Ten tips

By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Your chances of suffering a heart attack or confronting domestic violence during the Christmas season soar by at least one third according to studies published around the world this week.

One report is the result of a study conducted by insurers who compared medical data from the last four years and discovered that “from 2009 to 2012 there was an average of 40 admissions to hospitals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for heart attacks, compared to an average of 30 for the rest of the year.”

Peter Rowohlt from DAK-Gesundheit (really), the group that reported the findings said, “The culmination around Christmas in all four years one after the other is very striking.” He also notes that Christmas Eve in Germany appears to be particularly bad for men’s health.

Stress, both from personal lives and careers, were the main reason behind the increase, according to their findings. Shopping for presents, organizing events, and especially, trying to fulfill all of the expectations of family and friends all add to the stress we’re already experiencing from the struggles of coping with the challenges of daily life.

Christmas should be a happy and joyful time, but not everyone experiences the holiday the same way; Christmas can be a very depressing time for many people for many reasons as financial pressures, isolation, family tensions, separation, divorce, bereavement and memories of better times can all add up to ruin your, and your loved ones Christmas spirit, or worse.

Sadly, according to some experts in the field, domestic violence escalates during the holidays. Preparation pressures and fulfillment expectations can cause our energy levels to soar, tempers to flare, long-simmering arguments to boil-over leading some situations to explode into domestic violence including extreme verbal and physical abuse.

Exacerbating an already stressful situation by adding festivities and parties that include intoxicating beverages, drugs, and the “wrong combination” of certain people, friends, co-workers and family members can contribute to the likelihood that you might be physically if not emotionally injured in what could become potentially violent holiday explosions.

Writer Rachel Baldwin, commenting about the phenomenon notes, “According to the National Coalition to End Domestic Violence website, December traditionally is the worst time for domestic violence in most states, and last year a third of domestic incidents reported to the police that month occurred between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. National statistics say that researchers have found that, while domestic abuse increases by about 22 percent on Thanksgiving, it is really New Year’s that is the biggest holiday of concern. Domestic violence rates increase by an incredible 32 percent during this holiday. Christmas ranks third with a 17 percent increase.”

The world famous Mayo Clinic offers these 10 tips for coping with stress and depression during the Christmas holiday season. Check out the full discussion at their website, mayoclinic.com:

The clinic staff suggests that we should “Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.”

1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief.

2. Reach out, volunteer. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well.

4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion.

5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget.

6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list.

7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.

8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

And remember; things are rarely as good or as bad as they seem. This too shall pass; before you know it, the Fourth of July will be upon us again!

Contact Bill Bradberry at bill.bradberry@yahoo.com

Contact Bill at bill.bradberry@yahoo.com