Emergency rooms see a spike of visits during the holiday period, with stress being a major cause. Stress comes at us from all directions at this time of year, from lack of time, to lack of money, decisions on gift buying, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and entertaining. It’s no surprise that our health often pays the price in meeting the demands of the season.
Here are strategies to help you avoid the biggest holiday stresses, and still have a good time.
Countless people end up in the ER through food poisoning, with undercooked turkey being a major culprit. Those big birds need some tender lovin‘ care in the oven or they can bite back. Make sure yours is cooked properly by following these guidelines:
- Give it plenty of time to thaw if you buy a frozen bird. In the refrigerator, allow one day for every 5 pounds of weight. You can get away with defrosting a chicken overnight, but that won’t work for turkeys.
- Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature and ensure it’s cooked before serving. Your thermometer should indicate a temperature of at least 165 degrees F.
- Allow extra cooking time if you stuff the bird. Cooking stuffing separately is safest. Also allow extra time if your turkey is fresh. Follow any instructions on the packaging.
Knowing how to cook the main dish, and allowing plenty of time, will save stress on the day.
When people gather socially, noise, confusion and excitement mounts, especially in younger generations. Save yourself the stress of needing to have eyes in the back of your head by following these safety precautions, for both getting the house ready and when guests arrive:
- Put decorations up safely. Don’t balance on chairs or boxes. Use a stepladder if you’re reaching up high, and get someone to help.
- Use non-breakable ornaments. Glass ornaments are lovely, but can shatter easily, especially in little hands. Non-breakable ones look just as good and are much safer.
- Use stair gates in doorways to prevent toddlers accessing the tree when no one else in in the room. You’ll have more stress if you’re forever chasing them to bring them back into view. Prevention is better than cure against the lure of twinkling lights and gifts under the tree.
- Keep an eye on pets – cats like to climb trees and can topple them, creating a fire hazard or injury if anyone happens to be in the way at the time.
- Avoid twinkling lights if they bring on headaches. Twinkling or flashing lights look wonderful, but if they give you migraine, they’re not worth it. Choosing ones that have alternative settings can help if you like a bit of twinkle now and then.
Learn to Say ’No’
With so much going on, it’s tempting to accept every invitation or request for help, then end up running round like a headless chicken for weeks on end. A polite ‘no’ gives no offense, and can save lots of stress caused by having too much to do and not enough time.
Stress is a contributing factor in heart attacks. In fact, the death rate from heart attacks goes up by 5%, peaking on Christmas day and the day after, and New Year’s Day. Be aware of the warning signs, because many people wait too long by dismissing pains as indigestion.
Alcohol is another cause of ER visits. With everyone pressing drinks on you, it’s hard to stick to limits and all too easy to overindulge and become intoxicated. Learning to say ‘no’ to drinks and rich food when you’ve had enough will save the stress of potentially dangerous health emergencies, leaving you fit to celebrate again tomorrow.
Stress Busting Tactics
There’s no, one, sure-fire way to avoid all stress at Christmas. Everyday commitments to work and family don’t disappear, so develop some strategies to make time work for, instead of against you:
- Take a walk. Exercise and fresh air are great for clearing the mind and getting some perspective back on a busy schedule. Even just ten minutes is better than endlessly battling on.
- Avoid shopping crowds by picking quieter times of day. Going late in the evening or early in the morning helps a little, as does shopping in short bursts rather than in one marathon expedition.
- Make shopping and gift lists and stick to them. Include possible retailers where you can get items, then plan your route to save walking unnecessary miles.
- Shop online where possible to avoid crowds completely.
- Share entertaining/cleaning/cooking with others. Rope in family and friends to help, especially if everyone takes it for granted that you’ll do it all. People don’t automatically know you need help if you don’t ask.
Many a holiday is marred by stress. Don’t let yours be one of them.
Photo by David Porter