In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

December 23, 2014

An Ode to Joy, Stress, Coping and a Happy-ish Holiday Season to All

By In the Loop
Read time: 3 minutes

Snow falls on a candle lantern in a warm and inviting holiday scene.

The holidays are a time of joy, giving, memories, family squabbles, overeating, over-imbibing, and for some, even sadness and depression. Which is why, in addition to helpful tips on hosting the most amazing holiday party ever (ev-er), the Internets are filled with tips on managing stress, staying centered, repairing relationships, and keeping off the pounds, among other things, during this most wonderful time of the year.

Being all about balance ourselves, we couldn’t help by being drawn to a piece called “Ode to the Holidays” by Mayo’s very own Joseph Sirven, M.D., chair of Neurology in Arizona. Dr. Sirven delivers a regular commentary for KJZZ-FM (91.5), a public radio station in Tempe, Arizona. In his most recent dispatch, he contrasts the “hap-happiest” holiday music that surrounds us, with the moods of patients who ask for something “to get me through this month” or “a prescription excusing me from my holiday dinner?” To the latter request, he replies, “Only if you write one for me.” 

Dr. Sirven notes that studies have shown “an unusually high spike in heart-related deaths” along with increases in “strokes, migraine headaches, epileptic seizures”-- not to mention stress and depression -- during the holidays. All of which can lead to poor choices that become part of “an unholy Yule time cycle.” But he notes, “Luckily, being in health care has blessed me with the gift of perspective.” His solution? “During this season, shift the pronoun from ‘I’ and ‘me’ to ‘he,’ ‘she’ or ‘they’ and their needs.” In his case, that means “volunteering for on-call duty” at the hospital. “Boy, does that help,” he says. He also suggests a bit of perspective. “Don’t expect the perfect holiday, because, if you do, well, I guess I’ll be seeing you during my on-call shift.”

Inspired by Dr. Sirven’s words, we decided to dig up a few more words of wisdom for the holidays from other Mayo folks:

From Sheryl Ness, who writes for Mayo's Living With Cancer blog:

  • “Realize your limitations and feel comfortable doing less. Don't feel obligated to live up to others' expectations.”
  • “Celebrate the little things in life, including each day you are blessed with and the people who support and love you.”

From Angela Lunde, who offers tips for caregivers on Mayo’s Alzheimer’s blog:

  • “Adjust your expectations … keep it simple … take good care of yourself.”
  • “Rituals, familiar food and smells, songs and decorations all stimulate memories of people and holidays past.”

From Edward Creagan, M.D., who writes for Mayo’s Stress Management blog:

  • “Let go of unrealistic expectations. Don't get hung up on the mythology of the holiday season.”
  • “Be gentle with yourself and be realistic with your expectations.”

From Amit Sood, M.D., author of the Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, who offered these words of wisdom on his Twitter feed:

  • “Holidays are about relationships. Aim to improve at least one precious relationship this season.”
  • “Live life one hour at a time … Focus on what is right within what is wrong.”
  • “The pursuit of gratitude and compassion will make you happier than the pursuit of happiness.”

Share your best coping tips and party-planning advice here on the In the Loop blog. And don’t stress out about sharing this story with others. We make it easy with handy social media tools.


Tags: Angela Lunde, Dr. Amit Sood, Dr. Edward Creagan, Dr. Joseph Sirven, Holidays, Practice story, Sheryl Ness, stress

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