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Healthwatch 16: Coping with Holiday Stress

PLAINS TOWNSHIP -- No doubt the holidays can be filled with fun, friends, and family, and lots of joyful moments, but there's a fair amount of stress associated with the holidays, too.

Whether you're dealing with some personality conflicts or just looking to stay healthy through the end of the year, Healthwatch 16 has a few tips.

It's mid-December, which means no matter what holiday you celebrate, you are probably knee-deep in making your lists and checking them twice.

This is a rough time of year for our mental health, according to Dr. Robert Gerstman, staff psychiatrist for the Geisinger Health System.

"When people are overstressed, they may not think as clear as they would like. They may not do the same things they'd do under regular circumstances," said Dr. Gerstman.

He notes an increase in the amount of stress his patients report this time of year, and in many cases, more incidents of interpersonal difficulties maybe having to spend time with people they typically avoid.

Most importantly, he says on an emotional level when dealing with others around the holidays, it's helpful to be reasonable.

"Having realistic expectations there's some family or friends who won't do what you wish they could do."

When it comes to physical health, the holidays are known for parties. That means food and drinks are everywhere. Eating and drinking to excess is never a good idea, according to registered nutritionist and dietitian Samantha Cortese.

"I often encourage people to plan ahead. Offer to bring something nutritious you can rely on as part of that meal or appetizer," Cortese said.

Something like leafy green salad with apples, cashews, and low-fat cheese, but a veggie or fruit tray would work, too.

Cortese recommends remembering to "PACE" yourself:

  • P for plan ahead,
  • A for accept that plan ahead of time,
  • C for cook or create something good,
  • E for the most important part of all: enjoy.

"You want to enjoy that celebration and remember that food is part of it, but focusing on friends and family and loved ones instead of how many calories you're consuming."