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December 9, 2021

Support Women to Prioritize Self-Care During the Holidays

ThedaCare Family Medicine Physician Offers Suggestions to Help Manage Stress

The holidays are here, and it is a joyous and memorable time, especially after more than 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The holidays are also a time where many people, particularly women, feel stressed while they try to make the time happy for others around them, including family, children and friends. The time can be accompanied by unrealistic expectations, financial difficulties and strained relationships, leading to potential stress.  

Dr. Karen Hulbert, a Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Princeton said when we begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves. 

“Dealing with multiple challenges can drive some people beyond the ability to cope, especially during the holidays and during a pandemic,” said Dr. Hulbert. “It becomes even more important to take care of your sleep, diet and ensure that you’re also getting in some exercise. And this may seem simple: remember to take time to slow down.” 

There are a handful of signs to watch for when it comes to making sure we’re staying healthy, and mentally-well during the holidays. Dr. Hulbert said it’s more common for women to feel the burden of the holidays since many times they’re the ones navigating the planning, prepping, shopping and wrapping gifts. Add in what we see on social media and the pressure to have the perfect holiday can easily make us neglect ourselves to make it all happen. 

“Self-care is important year-round and especially for our moms out there that are trying to do it all,” she said. “They can make it look really easy taking care of everyone else, but it can be overwhelming and it’s easy to become impatient or stretched thin when you add the holiday “to-do list” along with the everyday tasks.”  

Dr. Karen Hulbert

According to Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of stress can include headaches, difficulty sleeping, overeating/undereating, skin problems, lack of energy, upset stomach, drug and alcohol misuse and tiredness.  

Dr. Hulbert said there are a handful of ways to help prevent stress and anxiety during the holidays. Some can be as simple as taking time to exercise. She explained it’s important to talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing more serious thoughts preventing you from coping on your own.  

“Movement releases feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream, which can improve your mood,” said Dr. Hulbert. “Try making it a priority to take a walk or just take the stairs a few times during the day. If nothing is working for you and you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed, “be sure to let your doctor know so they can help you. There are other options to explore, and we want women to feel comfortable having those conversations which can be difficult at times.” 
  

A Harvard study found the following tips helpful in managing stressors and anxieties during the holiday season. 

  • Monitor Your Stress Levels. Write down your stress level in a journal at various times of the day. Try to take note of the situation you’re in when feeling stressed. This may help pinpoint if it is certain people or activities. 
  • Take a Timeout. Emotions may be positive, negative or even a combination of both. Call for “time-outs” for yourself and check in on your feelings. 
  • Take Care of Your Physical Health. Make sure you’re getting adequate sleep and a nutritious diet. Develop a plan to enjoy the special foods and treats around the holidays while balancing healthy eating habits. 
  • Try to Understand why you may be Experiencing Negative Emotions. For some people, negative thoughts may be connected to unrealistic expectations or goals around the holidays. Try to focus on goals that are attainable so you don’t overwhelm yourself. 
  • Practice Gratitude. This can include taking a few notes each day on what you’re thankful for or what you appreciate in your life. This can oftentimes help shift focus into a positive mindset. 
  • Relaxation Skills. Practice deep breathing exercises or listen to soothing music. 

Dr. Hulbert says now more than ever – moms should feel empowered to ask for help completing holiday and everyday tasks. Help can come from a partner and from children, depending on their ages. This can spread the responsibility, and can also make families stronger by working together.  

“Throughout the pandemic, women, particularly mothers, have experienced high levels of stress,” said Dr. Hulbert. “Moms everywhere are the ones responsible for remembering birthdays and sending cards, planning and organizing family celebrations, planning family vacations – that’s on top of the everyday home life – meals, child care and also – having a full-time job. Then, add in holiday responsibilities, it is a lot.”  

Dr. Hulbert has some advice for loved ones who want to support the women in their lives.  

“Let her know you recognize her experience,” she said. “Also, reminder her that she is not alone. Help by offering to take something off her plate – making dinner, spending extra time with little ones, wrapping presents, picking up gifts, doing the dishes or folding laundry. By supporting each other, hopefully, the holidays will become less stressful and more enjoyable for all.”  

About ThedaCare 

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care. 

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