Keeping Your Spirits Bright During the Holiday Season


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Keeping Your Spirits Bright During the Holiday Season by R. Murali Krishna, M.D.

R. Murali Krishna, MD, DLFAPA, noted and well respected Oklahoma City psychiatrist, has recently published his first book, VIBRANT: To Heal and Be Whole - From India to Oklahoma City which he coauthored with Kelly Dyer Fry, president of news at OPUBCO. For more information visit

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Keeping Your Spirits Bright During the Holiday Season

  1. 1. Dr. R. Murali Krishna, M.D. President and COO, INTEGRIS Mental Health and James L. Hall, Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit Keeping Your Spirits Bright During the Holiday Season
  2. 2. Statistically speaking, if the three wise men were alive today and following not a star but typical American customs for celebrating the holidays, two of them would be perfectly fine. They’d be happily relaxing with their families, drinking eggnog and enjoying their gold and frankincense. The other one, though, would be “myrrhed” in holiday stress. He would be overwhelmed with hanging lights, buying gifts and going to parties. His life would be frenzied between lines in stores, traffic on the highways and searching for parking. The thought of extended family staying at his house for a week might fill him with dread. Oh, and he’d probably be a she, since holiday stress is more likely to hit women than men. No question about it, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year – that is, unless you happen to be part of the one-third of Americans who find Christmas and Hanukkah stressful. What types of people are most likely to be among that stressed-out one third? Although anyone can be subject to the season’ stresses, several personality types at special risk. Perfectionists, people who want every Christmas meal to be absolutely delectable, who want every person to receive exactly the right gift, who want every gift wrapped in exactly the right paper and ribbon, are one category of people at-risk. With the possible exception of Martha Stewart, none of us can reach perfection; so expecting the perfect holiday is a set-up for feeling stressed out. >> Chronic worriers, people who naturally fret and stew instead of finding comfort and reassurance, are also at risk. >> There is so much more to worry about during the holidays, and the stakes are often perceived as higher. >> The elderly, and particularly elderly males, who statistically tend to be more often isolated from family and friends, are another group at-risk. >> And people who are grieving, even if the death or loss they’ve experienced is not recent, may have to deal with painful memories or feelings. Keeping Your Spirits Bright During the Holiday Season
  3. 3. A final group of people at special risk for holiday stress is those who have a biological predisposition to mental illness. For people with bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, depression or other mental illnesses, the stress and additional emotions associated with the holidays can worsen their disorder. As you go through your holiday paces, you may have reason to realize that you are suddenly not having such a wonderful life. Look for these symptoms: Constant muscle tension Inability to relax Always feeling pressed for time, rushing through tasks, appointments, meals, etc. Resentment Anger Frustration Irritability Appetite changes Sleep disturbances Exhaustion, either emotionally or physically Lack of joy, feeling empty, having no enthusiasm If you feel any of these symptoms coming on, it’s time for you to take action. >> One of the most important things you can do is prioritize. >> During times of stress, people commonly perceive their needs as equally important. >> Stress steals our ability to discriminate between what’s important and what’s not. >> During such a time, you’ll really have to focus yourself to decide what truly needs your attention and energies and what can be skipped or eliminated. Another coping strategy is to involve others. The holidays often mean an extra workload, which in a family most often falls on mom. In one survey, more than 50 percent of mothers felt that the holidays bring along with them tremendous expectations to cook, clean and generally make sure everyone has a good time, yet there was no support or help offered up to help handle the expectations. Regardless of who’s carrying the burden, this is a time to share or delegate tasks and chores to others in the family. Not only does that relieve the pressure, but it may even give you a chance to be engaged with your family and experience the joy of being together. Keeping Your Spirits Bright During the Holiday Season
  4. 4. Learning to relax is another way to stave off a blue, blue Christmas. Holiday stress can cause your body to become tense. As a result, you may experience muscle spasms, headaches and backaches. Your immune system may drop its defenses, or you may have difficulty sleeping due to a mind racing with anxieties and worries. One of the best ways to relax is through deep breathing. For a few minutes a day, make a point of taking deep breaths all the way to the bottom of the lungs. Your breathing should become slow, methodical and rhythmical. Research shows such breathing calms heart and pulse rates, decreases blood pressure, relaxes both muscles and the gastrointestinal tract, makes the immune system function better and starts a chemical cascade in the brain that results in a sense of inner tranquility. >> You may also be able to relax and attain a greater sense of patience and peace through visualization. Take a few minutes each day to envision yourself in a situation that is calm and serene. You’re likely to find that sense of calmness then extends beyond your visualization to your life. >> Most important of all, get back to roots of what the holidays are all about: connection. While we enjoy giving and receiving gifts, the holidays are really a time to be connected to family, friends and our own sense of spirituality. >> Spend time with family and friends, reminiscing about past, thinking about future, playing, enjoying each other’s company. The more connected you are to your family and friends, the stronger (and less stressed) you will be. At the same time, stay connected to your spirituality. For many, the holidays are a time to focus on religious faith. But even if you do not have religious faith, spirituality can also be felt in connection to nature or community. If you focus on believing in a higher power, so much the better, since research indicates that belief itself brings health benefits such as a strengthened immune system and heightened ability to cope with stress. However you feel it in your life, spiritual connectedness can help you through difficulties and reduce your vulnerability to stress. By better recognizing your feelings and understanding what the holidays should be all about, you can control the amount of stress you face in this season of celebration. Keeping Your Spirits Bright During the Holiday Season
  5. 5. About the Author R. Murali Krishna, MD, DLFAPA is a psychiatric expert and pioneer in mind, body, spirit connection. His study of the brain has given him insight to the why of mental health and the how of living a healthy, vibrant life. Dr. Krishna’s mental health knowledge and experience is valuable and unique not only because of his extensive study and research of brain function, but also because of his true empathy. He has recently published his first book, VIBRANT: To Heal and Be Whole From India to Oklahoma City which he coauthored with Kelly Dyer Fry, president of news at OPUBCO. R. Murali Krishna, MD, DLFAPA Co-Founder & President, James L. Hall, Jr Center for Mind, Body and Spirit President & COO, INTEGRIS Mental Health President, Oklahoma State Board of Health Founding President, Health Alliance for the Uninsured Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Univ. of OK Health Sciences Center Dr. Krishna, an inspiring and engaging speaker, educates his audiences on the latest science in mental health and the healing power of the mind, body, spirit medicine connection. He is often interviewed by television and print news organizations for his expert opinion on mental and emotional health issues. For more information visit About the Book Dr. Krishna has recently published his first book, VIBRANT: To Heal and Be Whole From India to Oklahoma City which he coauthored with Kelly Dyer Fry, president of news at OPUBCO. In this book, Dr. Krishna shares his insights on human resilience and the power of living a vibrant life. He draws upon his own childhood experiences in India; coming to Oklahoma, his passion for helping people understand the importance of a mind, body, spirit connection; and his efforts to help people move forward following the tragic 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In this book Dr. Krishna reveals the secrets to living a vibrant life while overcoming: Anxiety Trauma Sleep dysfunction Stress Obesity Emotional dysfunction Depression Addiction Substance abuse Loss Anger Unresolved issues Relationship stress Mental illness Alcoholism