I fondly remember holidays when I was young. The chill in the air, the department store Santa, the excitement, merriment and festivities that filled the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. No matter what holiday you celebrate in the upcoming months, it seems the whole world is still celebrating like we did as kids. Everyone is posting their trips to the tree farm, their beautifully lit menorahs and all the holiday goodies they’ve handmade on Facebook. So what happens when your days are filled with OR cases and new patient appointments instead of cookie dough and glitter glue? How do you balance the patients who all want their surgery before the end of the year (for the deductible) and your need/desire to spend some time celebrating? How do the busy stay healthy and sane during the holidays?
Admit its not just you. Everyone feels the time crunch over the holidays. Do not feel guilty that you’re talking about gallbladders instead of seeing the Nutcracker. We all fall victim to the unrealistic expectations of the holidays. That is often the reason cited for the spike in mental health visits and suicide attempts during the holidays.
Set Expectations/Keep a Schedule. Budget time for holiday parties and time with family. If you’re planning on hosting family and/or friends, make sure you’ve got some time to prepare for the event. Set expectations with kids and other family members as to what the gift-giving budget will be so there is no disappointment or hard feelings.
Take some time for yourself. If you can take some time off during the holidays, do it! Shoving a turkey in the oven, making cookies and wrapping gifts is so much more fun when it’s not being done at 1am…on Christmas Eve. If vacation is not in the cards for you, take the time to do the things that keep you well both physically and mentally. If you exercise regularly, continue to exercise. If you work with a charity, continue to give that time. If you like to read, pick up a book.
Resist the urge to overindulge. This is an especially hard one for me. When I lack time, I often ‘reward’ myself with food. Unfortunately, not only can that lead to New Year’s regret, but in extreme cases, can lead to a hospital admission – or worse. For those of us who live to tell the tale, we can expect an average weight gain of over a pound. In a study evaluating weight gain from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, weight increased by 0.7% (0.6 kg) in the participants from the United States.
Remember and value what the holidays mean to you. Value the traditions of your youth or the new ones you’ve made as an adult. Enjoy the time with others or the solitude of being alone. Remember that the holidays are not about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. Allow yourself the time to stop being a surgeon for a day or two and just have some fun!
- Bergen, K. Hawton. Variation in deliberate self-harm around Christmas and New Year. Social Science & Medicine, 65 (5) (2007), pp. 855–867
- Robert A. Kloner .The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon. Circulation. 2004;110:3744-3745, originally published December 20, 2004
- E. Helander , et al. Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. N Engl J Med 375:1200, September 22, 2016
- http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/11/21/self-care-during-the-holidays/. Accessed December 9,