May 22, 2019 by John Fernandez and Tanya Racoobian
Finding Serenity During the Holidays
No matter what holiday you celebrate, you might learn something from cartoon character Charlie Brown and his annual search for calm and meaning during the holiday frenzy. An overload of obligations, stress and unhealthy eating habits are just a few of the pitfalls many people experience despite good intentions.
Hitting the pause button, and setting priorities can transform your holiday season and protect your health, the experts say.
Prevention is the key to well-being. First, ask yourself some important questions, said Rev. Guillermo Escalona, director of pastoral education for Baptist Health South Florida.
“What does the holiday mean to me? What should I truly devote my energy to?” he said. “Isn’t it primarily about the people, the true presents — and if we have a God connection, enjoying what God is trying to say to us through this holiday?”
A look back at past holidays can be revealing, he said, particularly if the result was sadness, anger and depletion — whether physical, emotional, spiritual or financial.
“Where did I invest my energy? My time, my talent, my treasure? Was it worth it?”
People often see holiday celebrations as synonymous with over-indulging, which can mean taking a break from normal healthy routines, said Manuel Torres, M.D., a Baptist Health Primary Care physician, whose focus includes preventive medicine and promoting healthy lifestyles. The consequences, he said, can be illness or even a trip to the emergency room.
Healthy Holiday Tips
To ensure a healthier, happier holiday, Dr. Torres and Rev. Escalona offer some encouragement and the following prescription:
- Eat sensibly. Portion control is important. “Creating your own tasting menu while still counting calories is a better eating strategy during the holidays. That way you get to try everything,” Dr. Torres said, but you’re less tempted to overindulge.
- Remember to exercise. Use your time off to add exercise to your holiday season. Bike or walk with the family. Shopping? Try an outdoor mall that’s conducive to walking
- Share tasks. Don’t take on the holiday feast alone. Ask for help with cooking and clean-up from family and friends, and include some prepared foods, or opt for being a guest instead.
- Take your medications. Diseases don’t take holidays. With all the holiday excitement, patients can become more lax about taking their medications.
- Avoid decorating injuries. Falls from ladders and roofs are not unusual during the holidays. Consequences of falls can be particularly dangerous for older people. It may be time to pare down elaborate decorating traditions that may have started when your children were babies. Eliminate decorations that require ladders, or take a real holiday as a guest at someone else’s home.
- Rest when you’re tired. Fatigue and tension can affect your mood and your ability to get things done.
- Volunteer. The best therapy can be helping someone else. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or other organization with meaning for you. Share your holiday meal with a friend or neighbor who may be alone this season.
- Enjoy the moment. Pause to enjoy what you’re creating— be it a meal, decorations or time with family and friends.
“The popular Genesis story is about a God who pauses,” Rev. Escalona said. “He’s not busy, he’s productive.”