Ask the Pharmacist – Coping with the Holiday season

Q. I try to have a positive outlook and lead a healthy lifestyle year long, but I find myself struggling over the festive holiday season. Do you have any helpful tips?

A. We often think of this time of year as joyous as we gather with family and friends and celebrate with plenty of food and good cheer. For many people, it is the one time in the year that you visit with extended family and get caught up with relatives. However, not everyone will feel the same joy and glad tidings and it is a good idea for us to be aware of the variety of concerns that might affect someone you know. Here are a few reasons you may find yourself in the company of a Grinch.

Some people may have a legitimate fear of getting sick this holiday season. The last few years we have had various Covid-19 variants to contend with along with the usual colds and flu viruses and this year is no exception. Though many believe that Covid-19 is “just a cold” nowadays, some people may not fair as well with “just a cold” on top of the other medical concerns they may have. As much as we wish to rid of the masking completely, if you do have some sniffles or a cough, before gathering in a small or large crowd, consider wearing a mask to prevent spreading those germs to your elderly aunt or grandparent or immunocompromised cousin. Also, remember that hand washing is an effective method of reducing the spread of germs too.

Loneliness and/or depression is another concern for some people this time of year. In general, we are social beings and find we benefit with connecting with others. However, the holidays may bring about sadness for some as they endure a recent loss of a loved one or perhaps unwelcome news of their health or that of a close person to them. Though it would be beneficial to surround yourself with loved ones, be it family or friends, it can be difficult to get past the inertia of wanting to be left alone. If you know of someone in this situation, encourage them to join in at their own or your family gathering. If you know of a friend or neighbour who is alone over the holidays, consider opening your door to them to join you in your home.

The rising inflation and the struggles of paying rent and heat let alone paying more for gifts or for a festive menu this time of year are a little much to think about. If you find yourself in this situation, do reach out to your local Food Bank and Christmas Hamper for a helping hand. If you are fortunate enough to not have these worries, consider donating your time or extra money you may have to help these worthy causes.

Staying true to your healthy values can be tricky at this time of year. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there are plenty of temptations around to steer you off your healthy routine. Though it might be prudent to advise everyone to avoid all the sweet treats and alcoholic drinks, there is an expectation that we indulge a little at this time of year. The key word is “little”. Indulging in excesses daily for the entire festive season would likely have you feeling a little ill.

On the flip side, avoiding every unhealthy treat that comes your way may not feel like much fun. Instead, before heading out to your festive occasion(s), make a mental note of your favourite sinful pleasures and allow yourself to partake in them. Be mindful that allowing yourself to eat/drink your item of choice does not equate to having a week’s worth in one sitting. According to research, when we are gathering with others. we tend to overeat and occasionally overdrink to keep pace with the rest of the group. This lends itself to feeling bloated, nauseous, and possibly acting in a socially inappropriate manner.

Some tips to help with these temptations are;

· Eat more slowly than usual
· Use a smaller plate
. Allow 20 minutes to pass before getting a second plateful
· Have a healthy snack beforehand to reduce the quantity of unhealthy foods
· Have a glass of water in between other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

This is a time of year that many find difficult to avoid certain vices like alcohol for example. If you need or wish to abstain, stay true to your core values. Don’t let the festive temptations and social pressures that go along with it make you stray from your decision. Practice saying “no” ahead of time. There are many 0% non-alcoholic beers and wines available on the market now so plan ahead and bring some of those beverages for yourself to consume. If the temptation becomes too great, then you may want to consider leaving for a short while to regroup or leaving the gathering altogether.

For more information on this or any other health topic, contact the pharmacists at Gordon Pharmasave, Your Health and Wellness Destination.

We do hope you have a very joyous holiday season and we wish you all the best for 2024. We will return in the New Year with more Ask the Pharmacist columns.