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Holidays Health Tips

Holiday Depression/Stress

Coping with Loss During the Holidays
Holidays are times when people remember important and happy occasions and at the same time look forward to the future. But if there has been a death in the family, serious illness or concerns about aging, the holidays can magnify feelings of isolation, loss and loneliness. Anticipation of any holiday is much worse than the actual holiday, and planning can help you get through these times, or help others get through them. Sit down with family and decide what each member wants to do for the holiday season and can handle comfortably. Realize that it isn't going to be easy; just do the best you can. If you live alone, invite someone over for a meal, go to a movie, or select a special book to start reading that day. Have someone else shop for gifts, or postpone gift-giving altogether. Decorate as much as you are ready for. Let someone else cook the main holiday meal, or change the time of day when it was traditionally served. Be sure to take care of your needs; get adequate rest and exercise.


Coping with Loss During the Holidays II
Acknowledge the absence of your loved one; have a dinner or toast in their honor; visit the cemetery or memorial site. Engage in spiritual activities that are comfortable for you. All wounds take time to heal; realize that you will feel sad at times. Don't be afraid to cry, or smile. Enjoy the gifts of the season found in special memories and contact with families and friends.


Don't Forget the Elderly
Holidays can be especially stressful for the elderly. Older adults often relinquish family leadership roles non-voluntarily producing a loss of identity which causes depression. This loss of control is especially evident to the elderly during the holiday season, which stretches from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, when they become guests at functions they formerly hosted. And due to the break-up of the nuclear family, as well as death or impairment of spouse and siblings, an increasing number of older Americans find themselves alone at holiday time. Younger family members should try to involve their elders in holiday preparations and make them feel an important part of the family during the holiday season.


Fighting Holiday Depression
1. Check traditions. Discard those that are no longer fun, and create new ones.
2. Simplify your routine. Bake only one or two types of cookies instead of ten or twelve.
3. Take time outs. Grab 15 to 30 minutes for yourself to revitalize and recharge when you find yourself getting weary.
4. Prevent money problems -- don't create them. Give gifts of time and yourself, or pull names for gift exchanges. Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window shopping without buying; making a snowperson with children.
5. Exercise. Get outdoors, get fresh air, and work out the built-up stress. Phototherapy, a treatment involving a few hours of exposure to intense light, is effective in relieving depressive symptoms in patients with SAD.
6. Don't go overboard. Enjoy the special holiday foods that you only get at this time of year, but don't overdo it.


Fighting Holiday Depression II
1. Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do not put entire focus on just one day (i.e., Christmas Day) remember it is a season of holiday sentiment and activities can be spread out (time-wise) to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
2. Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
3. Leave "yesteryear" in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Donít set yourself up in comparing today with the "good olí days."
4. Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others.
5. Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
6. Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends or contact someone you have not heard from for awhile.


Holiday Depression
Contrary to popular belief, the holidays are NOT when most suicides occur (it's actually early spring). Still, the stress of the holidays can deliver a one-two punch to mood and energy levels, even in people not normally susceptible to depression.


Holidays Can Be a Painful Time
The holiday season is a time full of joy, cheer, parties, and family gatherings. However, for many people, it is a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures, and anxiety about an uncertain future.


Natural Holiday Stress Relief
If the holidays have really taken their toll, you may want to consider these natural supplements: kava for stress-induced anxiety; melatonin if worrying keeps you up at night; or St. John's wort if stress is coupled with mild depression.


Return Gifts Later
The day after Christmas is not the time to return unwanted gifts. Wait until after the New Year when shopping crowds have diminished.


Set New Goals
Looking forward to something provides calming perspective. Start off the New Year with plans to buy concert tickets, book a weekend getaway, or schedule a massage.


Take The Stress Out of The Holidays
Be realistic about what you can do and expect from the busy holiday season. Remember the greatest joys are often found in the simplest thing


Holiday Dietary Information

Avoid Holiday Heart Syndrome
The holiday season can put extra stress on already weakened hearts, leading to the "holiday heart syndrome." Overeating can raise your cholesterol and weight, both of which increase heart attack risk. Eating high-salt foods can add to heart stress by causing high blood pressure. Heart palpitations brought on by excessive alcohol consumption are part of the syndrome as well. Also, a special danger of the holiday season is attributing the warning signs of a heart attack to indigestion.


Be Prepared
If you're in charge of preparing the holiday meals, start cooking early so you can enjoy the holidays. Create sauces, jams, cookies, and other items that will keep until the guests arrive.


Dieting During the Holidays
During the holiday season, choose one meal during the day to eat something extra not allowed on your diet. If you ate one cup of dressing or one cup of candied sweet potatoes or one slice of pumpkin pie, you would not be blowing your diet. Also, you should not feel guilty for having eaten the extra food. The holidays can provide good emotional and family support.

In addition, it may be more realistic for you to set a goal of weight maintenance from November 24 until January 2 or 3. To expect that you will continue to lose weight during the holidays is probably unrealistic and will make you feel guilty if you do not lose weight. Instead, plan to keep your weight the same. Then after the holidays, set a goal to continue your weight loss program.


Eating While Shopping
It's easy to pick a fast food meal that is high in fat and calories and low in nutritional content. The trick is to resist those extra calories. You can eat a healthy meal at a fast food restaurant by resisting the "super-size", limiting fried foods, and avoiding high fat condiments such as dressings, mayonnaise, sauces and cheese. Instead, slather that burger with mustard, ketchup or fat-free dressing or order a salad. And you can always bring a piece of fruit from home to complement the restaurant's menu.


Ethnic Concerns
Soul food may be good for the soul but not the body. The emphasis on frying in soul food preparation and high fat flavorings are the major problems. To keep the flavor but eliminate the fat, remove the skin from fried chicken and cook without lard. Fix greens with lean ham instead of ham hocks and bake sweet potatoes instead of making sweet potato pie. Healthful sweet potatoes can be flavored with cinnamon, diced apples and a bit of brown sugar. And while there is no way to make chitterlings healthy, he advises that they be eaten in moderation. A healthful diet includes foods you enjoy prepared in healthy ways.


Ethnic Cooking
Even Chanukah latkes, fried potato pancakes, can be part of a healthful diet. Use a combination of non-stick spray and canola oils to fry the pancakes, and be sure the rest of the meal is low fat. But, most important of all, exercise portion control. Enjoy your latkes with family and friends and put the focus on the tradition of the oil that miraculously lasted eight days during the time of the Macabees.


Healthy Entertainment Ideas
Looking for healthy holiday entertaining ideas? Instead of a traditional holiday cookie exchange, invite friends over for a light meal that includes vegetable soups, fresh breads, fruits and lettuce salads. And the gathering does not need to revolve around eating to be fun. Structure the event so food is not the main focus and clear the food as soon as guests have eaten. Make sure there are plenty of other activities at the party such as board games, a white elephant gift exchange or build some exercise into the event and go caroling through the neighborhood.


Healthy Holiday Helpers
When preparing meals for the holidays, try some of these holiday helpers to keep meals lower in fat:

1. Don't forget the roasted vegetables -- squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips or tomatoes. These vegetables require little if any fat to prevent sticking, and roasting them with your turkey is an ideal cooking method.
2. Strong-flavored cheeses, such as gorgonzola or aged parmesan, add more "oomph" per ounce and have less fat than easy melters such as cheddar.
3. Try pureed potato, skim or low-fat milk rather than cream for your sauces.


Holiday Cooking
Another suggestion is to serve large portions of fruits and vegetables as a main dish and a small portion of meat as a side dish. Avoid unrealistic New Year's resolutions, such as resolving to go on a drastic diet. Creativity in the kitchen with different food preparation techniques, such as steaming and roasting, and an emphasis on fruits and vegetables may be all it takes to prevent holiday weight gain.


Holiday Drinking
If you must drink, do so conservatively, limiting yourself to one or two drinks interspersed with non-alcoholic beverages and food over a period of time and do not drink and drive.


Holiday Eating
The main rule to remember is moderation, whether this is in consumption of red meat, which can be high in cholesterol and saturated fats, or alcohol, which can raise blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Cream sauces tend to be high in fat and cholesterol and desserts are often similar in content. Try to balance intake of these items with regular servings of fruits and vegetables, use lean meats and when possible, look for recipes that offer low-fat substitutions for ingredients.


Holiday Food Facts
Cranberries increase the acidity of the body, helping it fight off certain bacterial infections. The berries may make smokers crave nicotine. Certain wines and cheeses can cause migraine headaches. Pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and beta carotene, which are associated with decreased incidence of cancer.


Holiday Heartburn
With rich foods and alcoholic beverages galore, heartburn is as common as mistletoe and holly. Heartburn is the most common gastrointestinal complaint, and approximately 32 million Americans take antacids at least twice a week or more. More than 52 million Americans suffer from frequent heartburn -- and most of them never see a physician to find out what may be causing it. Heartburn can be an indicator of more serious illness. Heartburn also adversely affects the quality of life for many people.
Heartburn may be worsened by overeating, eating rich or spicy food, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Recurrent heartburn may be a symptom of esophagitis, which usually is caused by acid reflux (backflow of stomach acid).


Holiday Weight Gain
The holiday season brings festive family get-togethers, office parties and other traditional activities. What common thread do these activities have? Food, food and more food! The average American gains 5 to 7 pounds over the holidays.


Holiday Weight Tip
If you weigh yourself the day after a holiday and find you're two pounds heavier than the day before, don't panic; it's not fat. When the body metabolizes carbohydrates it converts them into carbon dioxide and water. The extra weight you're suddenly carrying is mostly water.


Resisting Holiday Treats
How do you resist all the tempting treats that are customary during the coming week? Eat a healthy snack before heading off to a holiday gathering and never starve yourself the day of a big party or meal. Eat nutritious and satisfying mini-meals throughout the day to help control your appetite.


Turkey Day Hangover
The "turkey coma" a medical fact:

It's not that you're relaxed and full, although that's still part of it. Crashing on grandma's couch before the pumpkin pie is served is the result of some very interesting neurological and physiological processes.

Large amounts of carbohydrates such as are found in potatoes, bread stuffing and candied yams help the body produce serotonin, a chemical in the brain that has a calming effect.

Because the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is such a large meal, people often decide they will forego breakfast and lunch. The sudden onslaught of food into the digestive system on an empty stomach sends the body's production of insulin into overdrive, depleting blood sugar and making you sleepy.

Blood concentrates in the digestive system to absorb all that food, decreasing its concentration in the extremities, including the brain. Top it all off with alcohol and it's no wonder you're napping after Thanksgiving dinner.


Turkey Tip
Do you have turkey questions? Three companies offer 800 number help lines. (Most also include recipe offers, as well as planning tips and preparation advice).

Butterball: 800-323-4848, and a TDD line at: 800-TDD-3848 (both operate 24 hours a day through the holidays) Bilingual help is also available.
Foster Farms: 800-255,7227 (24 hours/day)
Reynolds: 800-745-4000 (24 hours/day)


Holiday Health - General Information

Gather Loved Ones
Ring in the New Year with your best friends and family. There is no better way to step forward into the future.


Give Thanks
Take a moment to appreciate all that you have. Reflect on your favorite people or the pleasures of the day. Celebrate the moment.


Holiday Travel Tips
1. Always follow the laws of your state AND the states in which you plan to travel.
2. When driving to your destination, be DEFENSIVE!
3. Wear seat belts!
4. With many family members being together for celebrations, toddlers often are left to explore a possibly unsafe, non-poison-proofed home of a relative. Ensure that the home you are visiting poses no safety hazards for your child (long stairways, decks or ledges of porches, kerosene heaters, poisonous plants, etc.)
5. Take your bottles of Ipecac and activated charcoal with you when visiting. They do no good unless you have quick access to them!


Is There a Santa Claus?
Is there really a Santa Claus? Parents should not be concerned about promoting the myth of Santa Claus to their children. Kindly old Saint Nick is the embodiment of qualities every child needs to believe in and a little fantasy is healthy for children because it promotes creativity. There is no need to worry about youthful angst when your children begin to question the existence of Santa. Children are very good at rationalizing incongruities. There has never been a child who has been emotionally scarred by believing in Santa. And, as we all know, the red suited man and his reindeer have brought joy to the hearts of children of all ages for many, many years.


Live Christmas Trees
Water your Christmas tree with Sprite, 7-Up or any clear, carbonated soda pop. It will stay fresher longer and will shed less needles.


Holiday Safety

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Winter welcomes the warmth of fireplaces, furnaces and space heaters. But it also welcomes the deadly chill of an unseen killer -- carbon monoxide poisoning. You need to be aware of the possibility of carbon monoxide gas in your home and automobile this winter. It's a colorless, odorless and sometimes deadly gas that is difficult to detect.

Warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

Headaches and seeing spots
Fatigue
Nausea and vomiting
Dizziness and confusion
Irregular breathing
Ringing in ears

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and fear you might be at risk, it is important to consult your physician, local emergency room or local fire department. Death from carbon monoxide poisoning can happen in just minutes.


Children's Holiday Safety
1. Completely avoid foods and snacks that pose a choking hazard to children under age 4 (pieces of turkey with bones, peanuts, popcorn, chewing gum, hard candies.)
2. Keep toddlers and young children OUT OF THE KITCHEN during cooking and baking times. Be especially careful to make sure handles of pots and pans are turned inward toward the back of the stove so they won't be grabbed by your child. Also, be cautious of hot cups of coffee or tea that are setting around the home - they are very tempting to explore from your child's perspective and cause thousands of significant burns each year.
3. For toddlers and infants, avoid having small toys that they could choke on. A simple rule of thumb is to remember "if it fits in the opening of a roll of toilet paper, then it's probably too small to have around.
4. When looking for that perfect toy to give your child or participating in your child's play time, remember that not all toys are created equal when it comes to safety. Play it safe this holiday season by following some basic guidelines.


Choose Age-Appropriate Toys
Birth to one-year-olds explore with their hands, mouths and eyes and enjoy toys they can touch or squeeze: crib gyms, floor activity centers, soft dolls or stuffed animals, squeaky toys and activity quilts.
One to three-year-olds climb, jump, walk, throw and play rough and tumble games: soft blocks, large balls, push and pull toys, pounding and shaping toys and books.
Three to five-year-olds like to experiment with imaginary situations and have toys that are close companions: non-toxic art supplies, pretend toys (e.g., play money, telephones), teddy bears or dolls and outdoor toys such as a tricycle with a helmet.
Five to nine-year-olds like to be challenged with complex games that teach specific skills and concepts: arts and crafts kits, puppets, jump ropes, miniature dolls and action figures.
Nine to fourteen-year-olds develop lifelong skills, hobbies and enjoy team sports: handheld electronic games, board games, sports equipment, model kits and musical instruments.


Decorate with Care
With the holiday season comes celebrations with friends and family and decorating homes with holiday cheer. Whether your decorating includes a Christmas tree, a Hanukkah menorah or symbolic Kwanza candles, remember to follow these safety precautions to help ensure a safe and happy holiday season.

1. Inspect Christmas lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets.
2. Do not overload extension cords. Use no more than three strings of lights on one extension cord, and never run an electrical cord under a carpet. Be sure to secure electrical cords so children cannot pull them over.
3. Turn off tree lights and make sure you put out fires and candles when you go to bed or leave the house.
4. Keep burning candles, matches and lighters out of childrenís reach.
5. Do not place candles near draperies or anything that might easily catch fire.
6. Install smoke detectors in your home on every level and in every sleeping area. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
7. Keep toddlers away from electrical fixtures and cover electrical sockets with outlet covers when they are not in use.
8. Keep live trees watered to avoid a fire hazard.


Don't Drink and Drive
Have a safe and happy year and remember not to drink and drive on New Year's Eve. Use a designated driver.


Holiday Food Safety
That scrumptious looking holiday buffet you work so hard to prepare may be hazardous to your guests' health. Food that sits out at room temperature too long, poultry which has not been properly handled, and salad dressing, egg nog or ice cream prepared with raw eggs may cause nausea and other complaints. Keep food out for as short a time as possible. Hand washing, and washing of utensils and food preparation areas are important. To be extra safe, I recommend against using raw eggs at all. If you have the sniffles, be sure to wash your hands frequently while preparing food. If not, you risk giving guests a gift they don't want -- your cold!


Mistletoe Poisonous
The Christmas mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens) contains toxins and is potentially poisonous. Accidental ingestion of one or two mistletoe leaves or berries can cause stomach irritation. Consuming mistletoe may also result in an acceleration of the heart rate, as well as an irregular heartbeat and hypertension.


Poisonous Poinsettia
Ingestion of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) can cause problems for both humans and pets. Contact with the skin can produce skin irritation and dermatitis which are caused by the milky sap (latex) contained within the leaves of the plant. Accidental oral consumption results in an unpleasant burning sensation in the mouth. Accidental eating of the plant usually results in spontaneous vomiting.


Toxic Holiday Plants and Products
Plants and other items associated with the winter and holiday season can be toxic to both humans and pets. What follows is a general guide. Please consult your MD or veterinarian, poison control, and the manufacturer for specifics. Remember, the earlier you seek treatment, the better!

Low toxicity -- poinsettia leaves/stems; balsam/pine/cedar/fir; angel hair (spun glass); Christmas tree preservatives; snow sprays/snow flock; tree ornaments; super glue; styrofoam; icicles (tinsel); and crayons/paints.

Moderate toxicity -- fireplace colors/salts; plastic model cement

Moderate to high toxicity -- holly berries and leaves; bubbling lights (methylene chloride); snow scenes (may contain salmonella); aftershaves/perfumes; and, for pets, chocolate (dark is more toxic than milk).

Highly toxic -- mistletoe (especially berries); epoxy adhesives; and antifreeze. Please note that some items have special problems. For example, whereas angel hair is usually considered to be of low toxicity, it can irritate eyes, skin, and the gastrointestinal tract; the content of Christmas tree preservatives varies and often effects depend upon the amount ingested; styrofoam, small parts from Christmas tree ornaments and toys, as well as tinsel, can cause mechanical obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract; snow flock can cause problems if sprayed into the mouth and inhaled; and chocolate, of any type, should never be given to a pet. Antifreeze deserves special mention because even a very small amount can be rapidly fatal to small children and pets.


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