Research supports the idea that having a positive outlook can extend one’s life while stress on the other hand, is linked to six leading causes of death, according to a report issued by the American Psychological Association(APA):heart disease,cancer, lung ailments,accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
Individuals afflicted with chronic illness, and their caregivers are particularly vulnerable to stress especially during the demanding holiday season. The ailing economy and its impact has also become a contributing factor. According to an APA survey, 73% of Americans name money as the number one factor that affects their stress level.
Since the holiday season has the potential to produce stress, and in some cases, depression, Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., a private practitioner in Westfield, N.J., and a former president of the American Psychological Association, advises, "Take stock of your expectations and make sure they’re realistic. Don’t expect more of this time of year than of any other. Take a break from holiday music and television specials if you find that they’re turning you into "Scrooge."
"Most people dread the holidays because their inner experience is so different from what is being hyped. You should trust your own instincts and don’t try to be what you’re not. Keep up your normal routine and know that this day will pass too. If, however, you are unable to shake what you think are "holiday blues" your feelings may not be about the holidays, but about other things in your life. If you need help in sorting out or dealing with this issue, a psychologist is a person with the training to help you do so."
Chris Tatevosian, author of Life Interrupted-It’s Not All About Me,a self-help memoir about living and coping with multiple sclerosis believes it’s vital to organize, orchestrate an delegate during the holidays. "In light of the forthcoming holiday season, the medical world affirms that living with MS or any chronic illness or disability can impact energy levels, and the ability to function is limited. More importantly the amount of energy and quality of functionality changes drastically from moment to moment, especially when we are stressed. Because it is impossible to know how we will be able to function on any given day, planning for holiday events is almost an impossibility. The holidays, sadly but true are extremely stressful for everyone, whether you are healthy, ailing or functioning as the caregiver. Conserving your already compromised supply of energy becomes vital, because exceeding one’s allotted energy does not mean our bodies just slow down. On the contrary, it completely shuts down, and when that happens ,the last place one wants to be is in the presence of a crowd of holiday revelers," he said.
Tatevosian clarifies how living with a chronic illness can exacerbate stress in a person’s life. When asked to discuss from his own experience how holiday time may be dealt with prudently, so that caregivers and persons with chronic illness can handle stress better, he said he puts into practice ways to dispel worry and stress. "Again, I say live for the present. The reality is that you must make a conscious effort, a team effort if you are to avoid allowing worry and related emotions from taking over your life ,as well as, the lives of your family and friends. As one living with severe Multiple Sclerosis (MS) I’m living proof of how destructive stress can be on one’s health and relationships.Stress feeds on itself causing ones stressful situation to exacerbate and we know that stress will at the very least worsen your health condition temporarily in most cases, but sometimes it triggers a significant flare requiring medical treatment and hospitalization."
He went on to say, "I suggest letting friends and family plan and host the holiday happenings. You only have so much energy and it must be conserved, because the result of exceeding our already compromised energy allotment can be as we know from past experience both physically and emotionally ugly. I know, you are like me and you want, no you need to be involved. You’ve always been the leader, the planner, Mrs. or Mr. Holiday. Well, guess what? Life has thrown us a curve and we have to make an adjustment or two."
"Perhaps you can still be the holiday guru you desire. Perhaps you can organize, orchestrate an delegate. What I mean is you may no longer have the energy, manual dexterity or what ever it takes to put on a holiday party at your house, but you can still put on a festive holiday gathering or party."
"Now your role is that of event coordinator. Meaning to have the festive holiday gathering you desire it has now become your job to delegate. So, you now have the position of event coordinator. It’s your responsibility to decide and ask family members and others who will be attending the event to contribute in various ways. For example, Your sister Sue may cook the turkey while your sister Betty and Aunt Gilda decorate the house. Your three adult children can help by picking up the house and wrapping the Christmas presents. While they may not do it exactly like you would, everything that needs to be done will be done and you will still have energy to enjoy the day with family and friends."
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