The holidays can take a lot out of a person, between the shopping, the stress of travel, and the anxiety that can come with spending time around certain family members. Many people get lost in the stressful moments and forget to take care of themselves or have fun--sometimes, it can even lead to depression or substance abuse--so it’s important to learn how to deal with those emotions in a healthy way. This can be especially important if you’re traveling with a condition like COPD.
Here are some of the best ways to beat the holiday stress and just enjoy yourself.
Whether you’re a retired grandparent or you're still a hard-working man or woman, chances are you need to take a minute to focus on yourself. Make time--schedule it in your date book if you have to--to get away from the crowd and take a hot bath, read a book or magazine, play a game of chess, or just watch a favorite television show. When the holidays roll around we often spend so much time focused on everyone else that we get lost in the shuffle, which can make a person pretty cranky.
If you suffer from COPD, make sure you stay on top of managing your symptoms. Don’t over-exert yourself trying to keep up with the family, but get involved as much as you can. You might not feel up to joining in on the cousins’ annual flag football tournament, but you can volunteer to be a sideline referee or keep everyone hydrated as water-distributor. Take breaks as you need to, and don’t lose track of any healthy habits you’ve been building since your diagnosis (like taking vitamins).
Traveling can be one of the most stressful things a person faces during the holidays, especially when everyone seems to be going to the same place. Whether you’ll be taking a plane, bus, train, or car, plan well ahead of time to cut down on some of the anxiety. Find out well in advance if there are any additional steps you’ll need to take to travel with your oxygen equipment, and consult your doctor on what you should bring. You may not be able to do anything about the amount of fellow travelers you’ll have to deal with, but you can make sure you have snacks, headphones, a good book, and a carefully planned route.
If you’re taking a plane, pack light if possible so you won’t have to check any bags (which can be an expensive hassle). If you can, book your flight on the actual holiday; the day before Christmas is usually one of the busiest travel days. If you’ll be driving, make sure you have an extra phone charger and pack a couple of blankets, bottles of water, snacks, road flares, and tools in your trunk in case you get stuck in traffic or have a roadside emergency. Investing in AAA wouldn’t hurt, either.
Remind yourself before spending time with your family that you can’t change a person no matter how much you may want to. Many people have at least one family member who stirs up trouble or likes to get into divisive political conversations, so the best thing to do is simply steer clear of them. Be polite but keep yourself occupied, whether it’s making cookies or catching up with family members you see once a year. Not allowing yourself to get involved in negativity will help you stay calm and keep the stress at bay.
Plan for the Kiddos
If you have children or know there will be little ones at your family get-together, plan for activities so boredom won’t be a factor. Most kids are happy to go off and play with their cousins, but after a day or so the luster tends to wear off. Plus, you never know when your COPD symptoms may start acting up and will require your family to take some more downtime.
If you’re spending a long weekend with the fam, bring along board games, coloring books and crayons, and movies to keep them occupied. Little ones might enjoy making cookies or looking through family photo albums. Get creative and help them stay busy, because a bored child is often a mischievous child!
Remember that the holidays are a time to appreciate family and relax, so don’t stress about the small stuff. With a little bit of planning and creativity, you can beat seasonal anxiety and enjoy the break.
About the Author
Jennifer Scott has experienced anxiety and depression since she was a teenager. With SpiritFinder, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.