by Marcy Simpson, LCSW

What comes to mind when you think of the word “celebration”?  I think of special food, music, decorations, and even colors that are associated with the event. Of course, there is an activity planned to mark the important occasion, typically it is a social event. While a celebration is meant to be pleasurable, it can often create stress that can negatively impact our overall health for several reasons. Think of the old-fashioned spinning top and how easily it could whirl out of your hand and across the floor; what can we do to stop our holiday season from getting out of control?

  • Adjust Expectations – How many of us have a certain way we like to decorate, or special foods we like to eat at annual holiday meals? How about the gift list for all of those adorable grandchildren, pets, and co-workers? It takes time and energy to adorn our homes and businesses, shop for gifts, or prepare the mouth-watering treats that family and friends come to expect. And we haven’t even addressed the expectation of being “happy” just because it’s the holiday season. We often put undue pressure on ourselves because we believe we should do something or feel a certain way. This emotional strain can negatively impact our health. For example, our decorating endeavors can spin out of control if they aren’t in sync with our talent and resources. Sometimes just a slight change in our attitude will keep our budget on track, achieve desired results, and we might even be in a better mood to boot! 
  • Plan/Communicate Effectively – Now that we’ve decided we are going to celebrate a specific event, have we thought about “how” it will look? Planning can be a source of stress for some who work best with less structure; however, some thought process is needed if others are involved.  Also, that top will be spinning if there has been a breakdown in communication with others and you find yourself at the right place, but the wrong time.
  • Exercise Restraint – This can have a negative connotation, as we take the approach that holidays only come around once a year and we don’t want to miss out on anything. However, consider the consequences if our behaviors aren’t kept within reasonable limits. According to the American Psychological Association, 72% of Americans report that money is a significant source of stress. Consider your budget before you start shopping – make a list and tally expenses. The total might surprise you! The same can be said for our eating (and sometimes drinking) patterns over the holidays. 

The connection between stress and illness is real. Taking care of yourself allows you to have more energy for others. The very definition of stress is mental or emotional strain from adverse or demanding circumstances.  If we decide that we can stop the top from careening wildly by setting some limits, then we can look at this special season with anticipation. 

Marcy Simpson, LCSW, is a Health Coach at Pinehurst Medical Clinic in Pinehurst and Sanford. She can be reached at 910-235-3347 or msimpson@pinehurstmedical.com.