Diabetes Stress During The Holidays

The holidays mean different things to different people. For some the holidays seem full of joy, spending time with loved ones. For other people, it is full of disappointment and family bickering. Regardless of your view of the holidays, it causes undue stress and anxiety for many, caused by time constraints, financial pressures, and menu limitations. For those living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, holiday stressors have an impact on their emotions and diabetes self-management. Here are some tips I offer my clients that may help you enjoy the holiday season with less frustration.

cooking-stress40Whether you have a large or small circle of family and friends, the holidays get expensive. For many, these additional financial obligations cause undue stress to an already stressful time of the year. If you don’t have a budget, it may be good to create one for the holiday. Add up your monthly expenditures and determine the remainders, then consider that your holiday budget.

Next, you could make a second list to prioritize. Put people who would be most excited to receive a gift at the top. Those at the bottom are people you can skip if needed. Assign a dollar amounts to each individual while subtracting from your holiday budget. If you run out of money before finishing the list, you could always adjust your dollar amounts. Keep the list with you when shopping.

There are some other options to lighten the budget strain. You could chip in with others on joint presents.  Splitting the costs may help the purchasers get a larger gift for a friend or family member. Another creative solution is to create coupons your friends and relatives can redeem for favors. A family secret Santa, baking goods if you are into baking.

One innovative client of mine created three unique coupons: a home-cooked dinner for his parents, babysitting for his brother’s child, and his girlfriend got massage coupons. His friends and family were delighted to receive such personalized gifts plus he was able to keep his cost down.

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Last year, a client of mine was entertaining her family for the holidays. In her rush to shop the weekend before, she forgot to eat breakfast. Later that day her hunger got the best of her, and she ended up binging on fast food. This was not her usual behavior. During the following session, she agreed that it would have been better if she had created a detailed schedule ahead of time.

When hosting a party, it’s important to create a list of the things you need to accomplish. List your errands in the order you need to do them and put these tasks on a calendar. dinnerfamily40If it feels too overwhelming to complete all the tasks or you’re new to hosting, it may help if you assign potluck dishes or delegate tasks. Sometimes we assume that family won’t help, but if you don’t ask, you will never know. Don’t be afraid to ask; they might surprise you and say yes.  Reach out for help. A friend might be willing to be a sous-chef or do some last-minute shopping for any forgotten items.

With all the parties and family gatherings during the holidays, temptations are everywhere. They can be very challenging for individuals living with diabetes who are on a strict meal plan. A previous client of mine went to a work holiday party and everywhere he looked he could not find a diabetes-friendly thing to eat, and felt overwhelmed. He told me, “It wasn’t just tempting food or hunger. I felt that I had to eat. I had to fit in.”

These situations most times are unavoidable. So how do we cope? It’s balance, foresight, and planning ahead. He could have taken smaller portions of food. Bring a friend who knows your plan to help with it. They can assist you with accountability. Two weeks later, my client got the chance to use the techniques we discussed. During his family event, he requested a small cake slice, instead of taking a full slice, and giving in to his temptation. He brought a friend but didn’t have to use her. He felt comforted knowing the support was available. My client left the gathering feeling in control and accepted.

One great thing about this time of the year is that your experiences with past holidays make it possible to avoid some of the pitfalls. Happy Holidays!

For more on Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy and how it might help you, go to my website, www.diabetictalks.com

*All advice included in this article therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.

Published by Eliot LeBow LCSW, CDE

Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist, diabetes-coach, presenter, and writer. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy takes a holistic approach combining traditional talk therapy with diabetes education and management help. It addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of living life with diabetes while still addressing other non-diabetes related life problems to create a unique holistic approach to helping people with diabetes thrive.

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