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Dialysis & Holidays

As the song goes..."It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." However, it's also the time of year filled with great expectations and undue stress. The holidays can bring joy, but for some, especially those with a chronic illness, it can bring stress and depression. The holidays can bring extra worries about how to balance work, family, parties and finances along with your treatment schedule for chronic kidney disease (CKD). Your routine will be off, perhaps overindulging in food and drink, seeing people you haven't seen in a long time, and maybe staying up later than you're used to. Pushing yourself to your physical limit can lead to health issues with chronic kidney disease.

Dealing with Holiday Stress

The Mayo Clinic suggests that you look out for 3 common triggers of holiday stress and depression:

  1. Relationships—A potential cause of turmoil, conflict or stress at any time of the year, relationships can add an extra burden during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflicts are bound to arise with so many different personalities, needs and interests. Or, you may be facing the holidays without a loved one, which may cause loneliness or sadness.

  2. Finances—Another stressor that occurs at any time during the year, financial issues, such as overspending during the holidays, can increase your stress level after the dust of the holidays settle and the bills begin to pile up.

  3. Physical demands—Shopping, attending social gatherings and preparing holiday meals can leave you feeling exhausted and lead to more stress. In addition, normal eating, exercising and sleeping routines may be interrupted. This combination can be a recipe for holiday illness.

Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues

Recognizing common triggers can help you face the holiday season and keep you on track. When your stress level rises, it's sometimes difficult to stop, regroup and calm yourself down. Here are some tips you can use to head off holiday stress and depression:

Express your feelings. Sadness and grief are normal feelings. You may reflect on holidays past when you weren't dealing with your CKD. Recognize that your feelings are normal, and be sure to express them to a family member or friend. Don't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Get support. If you feel alone or down, seek out family and friends or a support group for people with CKD. Get involved and volunteer to help others. Also, ask for help with organizing your holiday gatherings, such as meal preparation and cleanup. Don't go it alone.

Be realistic. Your CKD is a part of your life, and with it comes certain demands, such as treatment regimens, unpredictable side effects and physical limitations. Be realistic about your CKD. Don't set yourself up by committing to too much as you may have done in the past. If you do, you could cause undue stress, resulting in depression.

Be budget conscious. You may have experienced a job loss or an unexpected retirement due to your CKD. Medical fees and the overall cost of living can create financial worries. So, before you go shopping, decide how much you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then stick to your budget; otherwise you may cause yourself to feel anxious and tense for months afterward while struggling to pay the bills.

Make a game plan. Prepare yourself by setting aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities that will help you manage your time. Plan your menus ahead and shop early. Also expect travel delays, especially if you're flying. For some help locating dialysis treatment if you're traveling, talk with your social worker, or contact Fresenius Patient Travel Service.

Set limitations. People will understand if you can't commit to certain projects or activities. By saying yes to only what you really want to do, you will avoid feelings of resentment, bitterness and feeling overwhelmed.

Stick to healthy habits. Your stamina may not be what it used to be. Feelings of depression and anxiety may occur, and it is a challenge to just get through any regular day, let alone the holidays. So, try not to overindulge. Be sure to eat a healthy snack before you go to a party so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to keep healthy habits by getting plenty of sleep and scheduling time for exercise.

Refresh yourself. Set aside time for yourself—even 15 minutes alone may be just enough time to renew yourself and give you the stamina to handle everything you need to do. Find a quiet place to relax, take a walk or listen to your favorite CD.

Get professional help if you need it. You can't do it all. As hard as you try, you may still find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, physically exhausted, having difficulty sleeping, feeling irritable and hopeless and just unable to face routine chores. If you suffer these feelings for several weeks, talk with your doctor, social worker or mental health professional.

Stressors abound during the holidays, but recognizing the triggers and taking action to avoid them will put you one step ahead, enabling you to face this holiday season with calm and ease and make it a wonderful time for you!

Reference

1. Mayo Clinic. Stress, depression and the holidays: 12 tips for coping. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/MH00030. Accessed August 30, 2009.

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