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  • Dr. Bob

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year holiday are stressful times. Schedules are tight. Parties are happening. Calories are consumed out of proportion with metabolic demand, and beverages become social events in themselves. Travel is often an issue to get to one side of the family or the other in time to log in a nervously timed visit before rushing to the other side of the family. Children get dragged away from home—and from the magic of Christmas that is truly magic at their tender ages—to sit quietly in the back seat until the long journey is over. Sleep/rest cycles are more that disturbed: they are abandoned. Work is accelerated to accomplish goals before the end of the year to make time for the parties.

It’s all physically and emotionally exhausting, depressing, and high risk for bad health.

A study published in Circulation dating back to 2004 examined 53 million death certificates from 1973 to 2001. There was a 5% spike in cardiac deaths in the holiday season that cannot be explained by changes in weather. Christmas Day, the day after, and New Year’s Day are the highest three days for cardiac deaths every year—in that order.

You likely know of someone who has suffered a fatal cardiac event in the holiday season. Someone I know (an immensely talented musician) passed away this week as he reported to work.

I see the signs in the clinic, too. Several young folks came to clinic this week with severe muscle spasms that were work-related, but stress-magnified. Several older patients this week exhibited exacerbations of physical problems that were directly related to grief with lost spouses, lost children, loss of their own health, or even lost pets.

So, be aware that this season may bring great joy, but also may bring stress, sadness, grief, disease, unmet expectations, depression, anxiety, and other issues. Look at the folks around you who may be showing subtle signs of trouble. Resist the temptation to overeat, over-drink, and over-exert. Pace yourself physically, but also emotionally, spiritually, socially, and psychologically. Remember, all those parts of yourself are inter-related and interdependent.

A quote comes to my mind, and though it is not a Christmas message, it applies here: “Be STILL, and know that I am God.” I recommend carving out some time for yourself this holiday season to do just that. Be still, and remember that Christmas is about the Great Physician making a house call, finding your terminal illness, and providing an eternal cure.

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