It’s holiday time: food, family, friends, and festivities! Yay! But wait a second; do I fit into the little black dress I picked out for the Smith’s annual party? Do I need to buy a gift for Barb in accounting? How much do I tip the doorman? And what foods have cousin Phil and his wife decided not to eat this year? Why does Bob always wear a belt to travel when he has to take it off for TSA? Will traffic ever move? Yup…holidays also mean STRESS! That’s why just about every sitcom has holiday specials. Holidays also accentuate our feelings – positive and negative – about ourselves, about our relationships with others and what we have or feel is missing in our lives. And even in the best of times when all is going right, we tend to eat and drink more and sleep and exercise less.
I certainly don’t have the answers. However, twenty plus years of caring for patients plus the ups and downs of my own life have given me experience with various life hacks.
1) Under stress we regress: Your brain and nervous system interacts with every other organ system in your body including skin. The huge acne cyst on your forehead the day before the wedding or prom is no accident. The same goes for flares of rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema or your own ‘Achilles heel’. Mine is my back – under stress I go Quasimodo.
LIFE HACK: be prepared early. If you always get that last minute cyst, ask your dermatologist if she’ll be around and the best way to get in for a last minute shot of steroid to take it down. Remember that your doctor may go away too so be sure you have on hand whatever topical or oral medication you’ve been prescribed for flares of any skin or other condition.
2) Remember to breathe. Sounds funny – if you are alive, you are breathing. But is the way you are breathing raising or lowering your stress level? Studies have shown that deep and slow breathing reduces the awareness and intensity of pain – that’s why my nurses and I always remind our patients to breath during procedures. It’s also been shown to reduce negative feelings of tension, anger and depression.
LIFE HACK: How to do it? When you are feeling overwhelmed, stop and try counting to three while inhaling through your nose. Feel your lungs fill with air. Then slowly exhale through your mouth to the count of three. Apps like Calm and Breathe2Relax provide visual aids and help time your breathing until it becomes second nature. Making a habit of starting and ending your day with a few minutes of attentive breathing can help your day start more smoothly and help you fall asleep at night.
3) Just say no. Years ago, a colleague advised me not to feel obligated to do every talk and article asked of me. I didn’t really take it to heart until I had cancer. In her book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips, Kris Carr talks about ‘swiping the cancer card.’ The idea is that if you are asked to a party and don’t feel up to going, take advantage of your cancer diagnosis to say ‘I’m sorry I’d love to, but I have cancer.’ Obviously, I don’t wish anyone to get cancer and am not suggesting lying. What I’m suggesting is simply telling the truth: ‘I’m sorry but I’m so overwhelmed this holiday season, I just can’t … (fill in ‘attend party,’ ‘pick up the bake sale cookies,’ ‘cover your shift’).
LIFE HACK: Most of us are good team players at home, work and in our communities. But overdoing it doesn’t help anyone. So be honest with yourself about which obligations are absolutely necessary and which aren’t. For example, while holiday cards are lovely and always appreciated, I realized not sending them wasn’t a tragedy. So instead of making them low priority, I just took them off my list.
4) Just say yes. Remember my Heideas “Oui For Me”? Be proactive about self-care.
LIFE HACK: Schedule something you want. It can be your appointment for pre/holiday filler and tox or even one microdermabrasion to feel a bit ‘glowier’. No time now? Get yourself on the schedule for January when the holiday fervor dies down. At the very least, get yourself a little treat. Using a deliciously fragrant moisturizer like Caudalie body butter daily after the shower or before bed helps your skin stay soft, relaxes your mind and is a statement of self-care.
I hope you find some useful pearls among these Heideas to help your holiday season go smoothly. And please share your life hacks with us when you come in or on social media!
Happy holidays and wishing you and yours joy, peace, health and prosperity in 2018!