- The holidays can be very stressful for some, with cardiac death rates highest around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
- To reduce stress during the holiday season, physicians should try to lighten clinical duties, limit screen time, and maintain a healthy diet and sleep schedule.
- When things get a bit stressful, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes alone and breathe.
If you feel frazzled during the holidays, you’re not alone. The holiday season is the most stressful time of the year for some people, a thesis supported by science.
According to an article published in the Journal of Psychiatry Reform, cardiac death is higher around Christmas and New Year’s Eve than at any other time of the year. The research also shows that during the 2 weeks starting at Christmas, more people die of natural causes than is normal for the winter months.
Physicians have a lot on their holiday plates.
Ever-demanding professional responsibilities coupled with an inability to spend enough time with loved ones can impair doctors’ mental and physical well-being, possibly putting them at risk. But there are strategies that may help ensure their wellness during the holidays.
Helpful tips to try
Here are some useful tips—offered by various experts, including Todd Wisser, DO, and Michael D. Brown, MD, MBA, FCCP, writing in their columns, as well as the authors of the Journal of Psychiatry Reform article—on how clinicians can stay healthy, happy, and connected with loved ones during the holiday season.
Lighten your work duties, if possible, to make time for festivities and family time. If you are on call, make the work experience fun by participating in a potluck, Secret Santa, or games with your co-workers.
Limit screen time spent on your electronic devices with work emails and social media. Try to designate a predetermined period of time each day when you don’t check them at all. Spend time on other activities that bring joy, such as singing, which helps with breathing and relieves stress, or yoga, which reduces stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Meet your basic needs, such as sleep and healthy eating. Drink enough water and avoid excess alcohol consumption.
Don’t force yourself to be happy, even during “the most wonderful time of the year.” It’s okay to be sad sometimes. The holidays can be a rough time for many—especially when memories of lost loved ones come to mind.
Try not to stress about the gifts you give others. When in doubt, keep them simple. Don’t worry if your efforts aren’t perfect. The ways you bake, wrap gifts, or even sing Christmas carols are likely more than good enough.
Plan light-hearted activities with loved ones. Laughter can do wonders to lighten the mood, so take in a fun movie, such as the holiday classics “A Christmas Story” or “Love Actually.”
Walking can help balance some of the excesses of the holiday season. It also strengthens the mind and body. While on a walk outdoors, pay special attention to what’s around you, especially if you can take in the sounds, sights, and smells of nature. Being in the moment is a practice of mindfulness.
When things get stressful with family or friends, take a moment to step away and get some air. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply and visualize being relaxed. It may also be helpful to focus on something that is important to you and recenter yourself in relation to it.
Physicians are compassionate souls who care for others every day. But especially during the holiday season, an extra bit of kindness can go a long way. Never underestimate the impact of a kind word or compliment. Such a small gesture can help make another person’s day.
What this means for you
The holidays can be a time of great joy. They can also be a time of stress and fatigue. Balancing work and family responsibilities may come at the risk of personal well-being. Remember to be mindful and engage the world around you with positivity. It’s also important to take some time to rest and recuperate.
MD Linx | December 7, 2022