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Handling Holiday Stress

by Linda Wasmer Andrews

The holidays are also a good time to expand your definition of family, particularly if distance separates you from your relatives. Reach out to others you know who may be in the same boat. Invite a coworker or neighbor over for dinner or to watch a holiday movie. Or share your caring by volunteering at a homeless shelter or charity organization.

Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, may help combat stress-induced fluctuations in blood glucose and make for happier holidays. Although research has produced some conflicting results, a study published in the journal Diabetes Care in January 2002 found that participation in a stress management program had clinically significant benefits for people with Type 2 diabetes. At the end of a one-year follow-up period, research participants who were trained in several stress management techniques had about a 0.5% drop in HbA1c levels, a reduction that has been associated with a significant decrease in the risk of microvascular (small blood vessel) complications.

Whether you’re navigating a crowded mall or a tense dinner conversation, one relaxation technique to try is a simple breathing exercise. To do this, take a long, deep breath in, counting slowly to five in your head as you inhale. Then exhale, counting slowly down from five to one. Repeat this exercise several times. As you finish, notice how your mind and body feel. Are you calmer or more at peace?

It’s important to note that while stress can be managed, depression doesn’t go away with deep breathing alone. If you have been feeling despondent or hopeless for several weeks, or you have noticed a change in sleeping or eating patterns, speak with a health-care professional. He or she can give you the appropriate examination and treatment to help you get back on your feet again.

Yes, Virginia, there is a sanity clause
Finally, don’t forget this: The holidays come but once a year, they last for just a matter of weeks, and then they’re over until next year. So if holiday stress gets you down, keep repeating this mantra: January, January, January. Before you know it, you’ll actually be there.

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