Managing Holiday Stress When You Have Diabetes

Managing Holiday Stress When You Have Diabetes: Main Image
With some advanced planning and a few smart steps, you can enjoy the holidays without derailing your health

The stresses surrounding the holidays are as plentiful as the food—whether it’s navigating hectic travel, feeling financially stretched, or staying up late making preparations and decorating. If you have diabetes, the stress of staying on track with your diet and physical activity plans can add to the tension, especially with tight schedules and temptations at every turn.

While physical stress—like being sick—can cause blood sugar levels to rise, emotional stress can also triggers blood sugar elevations. And, if the stress distracts you from your self-care plan, you may forget to check your blood glucose, or you might have an extra drink, which can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels.

But there’s no need to shun the festivities if you have diabetes. With some advanced planning and a few smart steps, you can enjoy the holidays without derailing your health.

Make a plan

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the best place to start is to make a plan for each holiday. Make a list of everything you need to do and when each task should be completed. This might include baking and cooking, grocery shopping, attending holiday parties, shopping for gifts, wrapping gifts, calling relatives, writing holiday cards, or decorating.

Learn to say no and ask for help

If you normally don’t volunteer for a child’s school field trip or attend school board meetings, you don’t need to start now. These things may be important to you, but you can save them for after the holidays. Adding new commitments to your already busy holiday schedule is a stress you can choose to avoid.

If you need help, ask for it. Many people love to “do it all,” but with all the extra tasks, it’s nearly impossible to be a superman or superwoman during the holidays, and having a helping hand can be a boon to your mental health. Kids and significant others can help wrap gifts, make a quick trip to the grocery store, pick up the tree, or dust off the decorations.

Stock up

With added housework, parties, and shopping, balanced meals may go by the wayside during the holiday rush. To help ensure you maintain good eating patterns, try these tips:

  • Make several large meals once a week and store single-serving portions in the freezer.
  • Chop up veggies like carrots, celery, and bell peppers and place in Tupperware containers in the fridge.
  • Keep single-serving-sized snacks like raw, unsalted nuts and seeds on hand to help keep blood sugar levels stable while you’re out and about.

Keep exercising

To squeeze in the recommended 150 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise every week, as well 2 to 3 sessions of resistance exercise, try these tips:

  • Take an indoor fitness class.
  • Bundle up and go for a walk around the block.
  • Train for a springtime race.

Party smart

Many people underestimate and fail to account for the extra calories in holiday drinks, which can be a recipe for holiday weight gain. Skip the eggnog and, instead, have a glass of wine; a beer, which is already portion-controlled by the bottle; or a drink made with a zero-calorie mixer or club soda. The ADA recommends no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and, if your doctor recommends avoiding alcohol, you should do so. One drink is equivalent to a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Never drink on an empty stomach. Having a small meal or snack before you drink alcohol could help prevent bouts of alcohol-associated hypoglycemia.

When you do eat at a holiday party, look for veggies and items that contain lean protein. If you want to indulge, stick to foods that you truly enjoy, and keep portions small.

Prioritize people over food

While Grandma’s cookies might hold a special place in your holiday memory bank, human interactions are what really feed the soul. So, take the time to chat with friends old and new this holiday season, and keep dietary indulgence to a minimum.

(Diabetes Care 2017;40)

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