by Christine Fisher
“As with any chronic health problem, it’s good to reduce anxiety by maintaining a manageable schedule, staying active and keeping a positive attitude. Every case is different,” Dr. Braud says. “But those behaviors generally help the patient cope and ease through the holiday season with as little stress as possible. This not only helps someone with arthritis to enjoy the holidays, but promotes physical well-being, too.”
Stress and the holiday season can go hand-in-hand, but for those with a condition that worsens with stress, such as arthritis, now is the time to take control and limit exposure to stress-causing situations.
Many times, that’s easier said than done, but incorporating a few simple techniques can make a significant difference in one’s health, according to Rebecca Braud, MD, family medicine physician at Braud/Davies Family Medicine.
“Stress can be a contributing factor to exacerbating pain, anxiety and other medical problems,” says Dr. Braud. “Managing stress is important everyday, but it is especially important for those battling chronic ailments, such as arthritis.”
Increased stress can have a negative impact on one’s health. “If you suffer from arthritis, the tension that many experience during the holidays can heighten the effects of chronic pain,” Dr. Braud explains. Some people may notice an increase in migraine headaches, stomach disorders, fatigue, short tempers, and difficulty concentrating and sleep problems.
If you have an autoimmune disorder or problems with your joints or tendons, Dr. Braud advises paying careful attention to your activity level. Over-activity and unhealthy habits, such as neglecting exercise and eating an unhealthy diet, will make things worse. “Find ways to ease the stress. Exercise, meditation and good nutrition will keep your body in a good rhythm and strong enough to help combat the level of stress we may experience during the holiday season,” Dr. Braud says.
Develop effective coping skills for holiday-related activities, such as entertaining, cooking, decorating, or family gatherings to increase enjoyment this season. “Most of us enjoy these times, but it can easily become overwhelming, turning what should be a happy time into something more stressful,” says Dr. Braud.
Flexibility in planning events helps. If you’re not up to hosting or entertaining, know when to draw the line. Do as much as you enjoy, but don’t over do it.
Enlist help as you make preparations. Don’t do everything alone. Listen to other people’s ideas and compromise. The process of planning the holiday gatherings can be as enjoyable as the event itself.
Scale down your expectations. Focus on the spirit of the season. Slow down and spend time together with family and friends.
Keep a regular exercise schedule. Neglecting your regular walk, yoga or water aerobics will only worsen your stress level.
Pay attention to your own feelings. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, it’s time to pull back and slow down. Don’t try to muscle through it. Try not to commit to anything that you can’t adjust if it begins to feel like too much. The holidays are meant to be a joyful celebration, not add to the stress level.