Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists

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Helping Patients De-stress During the Holidays

Dec 17, 2013

Wouldn’t it be nice if holiday anxiety had it’s own diagnosis code? And it was billable? In my opinion, it’s a real condition that we need to discuss with our patients. For the person with diabetes, it can mean hyperglycemia during the holidays. Over the years in my office, patients present with more symptoms of depression and tears during office visits. The holidays not only have an emotional component, but also a huge food piece that can be as equally stressful.

I am fortunate not to have diabetes. As a diabetes educator and dietitian, I try to view things from the perspective of someone with diabetes. If you don’t have diabetes, imagine coming to a holiday party and only finding a huge table of desserts when you were expecting dinner.  You know you have to eat something or your blood sugar will fall, but what and how much when you know everything is probably going to make it soar. I believe in moderation and enjoying life- even desserts when you have diabetes. However, even as a dietitian it is very challenging to estimate carbohydrates in foods you have no idea of the ingredients. For someone on an insulin to carb ratio, it is a guessing game. Then even when you do eat a few things, you have everyone who knows you have diabetes asking you if “it’s okay for you to eat that” or judging your choices. The person with diabetes also struggles with offending those people who want them to try their famous pie. It can be a mental and physical challenge to navigate holiday events.

We know that patients with diabetes have a higher incidence of depression. Maybe our patients are dealing with the first Christmas without a loved one or they are having anxiety about attending family events.

I found this perspective from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America for de-stressing your holiday and thought they had some good points to share with your patients over this next week:

  • Decrease your expectations to relieve the pressure off yourself. You are less likely to feel let down.
  • Focus on others. Ask about someone’s kids, job, etc and stop worrying what they are thinking about you. This shifts your focus on others.
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs to distract yourself and relieve anxiety. They can actually trigger a panic attack in someone with anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant itself and can make things worse for someone with depression.
  • Say no and do not over schedule.  Really think about each invitation and carefully select which events to attend. Just because it’s ‘tradition’ doesn’t mean you have to attend.

Hope you have a happy and peaceful holiday season!


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  1. Feb 02, 2014

    Thank you for your contribution of good information. I would like to share two tips to reduce winter holidays stress. #1 Shopping with a list helps to stay in budget and stay focused; often resulting in less stress of overspending which can takes months to pay off. #2 Holidays are not necessarily the best time to initiate mending relationships- try to wait until after the holidays. Rejection will add more stress during the holidays. Focus on positive relationships with family and friends.
  2. Dec 26, 2013

    enjoyed articles but would have liked more helpful hents for holiday diets.

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