Pay particular attention to your body during the holidays, especially if you have neuropathy or chronic pain!
Even for the healthy, the holidays can be incredibly stressful.
Some surveys have even found that people are more stressed by the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas than by asking the boss for a raise!
But when you have:
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Post-Chemotherapy neuropathy
Since you now have the stress of the holidays to deal with too, your health could take a serious beating—that will take you months to recover from.
Here are some steps you can take to make the holidays (and the months following them) a little easier to deal with:
1. Understand How Stress Affects Your Body
Stress (both mental and physical) causes the body to release hormones that prompt the liver to secrete glucose. That can wreak havoc on your blood glucose levels if you suffer from diabetes. In Type 2 diabetics, stress can also block the release of insulin from the pancreas and leave that extra insulin floating around in the bloodstream. In Type 1 diabetes, the effects are a little different. Some Type 1 diabetics say that stress drives their glucose up, while others maintain that stress drives their glucose down. Either way, your energy levels are wrecked. On a good day, that can be difficult to deal with. At the holidays, it can be pure misery.
If you are feeling stressed and your energy is especially low, you are less likely to pay attention to your glucose levels, or eat as you know you should. Pay particular attention to your body during the holidays, and Handling The Holiday “Stress-a-Thon”
2. Do What You Can To Reduce Mental Stress
Many of the things that stress us at the holidays are easy to manage or control. Make your life as easy as possible during this trying time.
If traffic really works your nerves, leave home a little earlier or try getting to work by a different route and avoid the areas that are particularly congested.
If your boss is a nightmare, plan to take vacation around the holidays if at all possible, and give yourself a mental break.
Volunteer to help with the holiday activities of a local charity. Doing something good for someone else is a wonderful way to make someone else’s life better and make you feel good at the same time.
Resolve to start a new exercise program, learn a new skill, or start a hobby as soon as the holidays are over. Enlist a friend to do it with you so you can encourage each other. Giving yourself a goal and something to look forward to after the grind of the holidays is over will do wonders for your state of mind.
3. How Do You Cope?
Everyone has a coping style. Some people are the take-charge type and take steps immediately to solve their problems. Other people just accept the problem, recognize that they can’t fix it, acknowledge that it’s probably not as bad as it could be, and go their merry way. Still, others are hand wringers and feel perpetually out of control.
The take-chargers and accepters have less problems with stress, both at the holidays and on a daily basis—as a result, their blood glucose levels don’t become elevated.
One of the most useful things you will ever learn (diabetic or not) is to relax. For many, the ability to relax is not natural, but it can be learned. Some ways to help you relax are:
Sit down or lie down without your arms or legs crossed. Inhale deeply. Push as much air as possible out of your lungs. Repeat the process but , this time, relax your muscles while you exhale. Start with this exercise for 5 minutes at a time and increase your time until you’re practicing breathing at least 20 minutes at a time, once a day.
Progressive Relaxation Therapy
Tense your muscles then relax them. Lie still and repeat the process for 5 minutes at a time, at least once a day.
We can’t say enough about the benefits of exercise. As we’ve said before, you don’t have to run a marathon to get the stress-reducing benefits of exercise. You can walk or stretch, too.
Watch Your Mindset
When it comes to reducing stress, a lot can be said for the power of positive thinking. It’s really easy to let your mind overwhelm you this time of year…
“I’ll never get it all done…”
“What if they don’t like what I give them?”
“Oh man, I have to spend time with my brother again this year…”
Just watch your mindset and you can eliminate much of the stress of the holiday season. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Say a prayer or recite a poem or a quote that makes you feel good. Think of something that makes you happy. It may sound trite, but go to your happy place.
Choose one or more of these methods to relax and do it daily. Relaxing doesn’t come naturally to us, but we can definitely learn to do it with practice, and the health benefits are beyond measure.
Face the fact that many holiday stressors are not going away. The relative you don’t get along with, the traffic, the never-ending list of things to do will always be there.
But you can learn to manage the holiday stress. And if you can learn to manage holiday stress, just think of what you can do the rest of the year.
Talk to your local NeuropathyDR doctor or physical therapist to explore ways to handle the holiday stress-a-thon and make it a healthier and more enjoyable experience this—and every—year, even with neuropathy or chronic pain!
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