Holiday Health

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By now, you have probably heard, read and seen enough information to last you a life time about your health and the holidays. Food, alcohol, smoking, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure…There is an obsession with this period, so much so that studies have been made for just the period of Christmas and New Year. So, what is the conclusion then? What is the bottom line? Do we have to worry about our weight, our health, our illnesses? Is there anything special we need to do in this time of year to make it really enjoyable and not stressful, as if we need more stress? Do we need to pay extra attention to what we do? 

The answer, I am afraid, is a complicated and simple yes and no. There, now that you are confused, allow me to detangle…

The holidays are described by many people as a stressful time of the year: Many year-ending work-related issues, many health-related issues, many-family-related issues and an increase in financial stress and burden. Retailers world-wide feed of the giving spirit of this season. Everywhere you go you have sales, deals to entice you to shop and spend money, gifts that are pushed your way and things that you are obliged to do. In our culture, there is a lot of “Ayeb”. Shame and obligations rule the air, at our own expense, and I am not just talking financially. We end up spending what money we make and what health we have to “enjoy” the holidays. I understand it is the season of giving, but we have taken it to a whole different level. By the time the New Year shows up, we are faced with tough decisions and playing catch up to what we have done in the last two weeks of the year. 

Health is all about the mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and financial wellbeing. Health is an all encompassing word, and that is how you need to look at it. As a physician who has worked in the emergency room for 9 years, and as an internist who has followed patients for over 14 years, I can tell you out of personal experience: There are more accidents, more health related issues that do occur around this time of year that any other. Studies have shown that to be true. I am not talking about dieting and weight gain, I am not talking about diabetes and high blood pressure. All these diseases need special attention as our diets change drastically over these two weeks. I am talking about our behavior that changes: We sleep less, drink alcohol more, work late, enjoy less, become more cranky to our family and friends, and we sit down together, we complain about the prices, the traffic and the responsibilities, and the dwindling power of the “dollar”. So my message to you this year is simple: Keep it simple. 
Take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays, from all their aspects.

The science of medicine is a complicated yet simple approach to health. As long as keep things simple, we will be okay. Take time to reflect, take things easy, and release yourselves from your perceived duties. Experience the holidays for yourselves, not others. In short, take care of yourselves first. This is the season of giving, and the people who are given last are ourselves. I am not asking you to be selfish, I am asking you to be wise and giving to your own health. The holidays are supposed to be about faith, love, and fun. Ask yourself what you experience out of these? Our kids’ gifts keep getting larger and more in number. Our obligations keep getting wider and more demanding. Our work is getting tougher and more complicated, and our bodies and overall health suffer for it. 

Go back to the basic premise that keeps us all healthy: Keep it simple, listen to yourself and avoid the pressures and stressors. Trust me, when you do this, people around you will be envious and they will take solace in the fact that you are doing this and they will start themselves. This year, spread the cheers the right way and celebrate your health and wellbeing, and you would have given those around you the greatest gift of the season: Their health and wellbeing. 

Happy Holidays…in good health.