Doctors' Notes

The Gift of Life: No Holiday Stress

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Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


All month long, we’ve been focusing on “Giving the Gift of Life” and the various ways you can affect the health of your friends, loved ones and your community.  While we certainly do need to remember the importance of giving back to the community in a meaningful way, this week we are focusing on giving ourselves the “gift of life”…a stress-free life!  For many, discovering how to live a stress free life is long overdue, so it’s ok to be a little selfish this time.

It is no secret that the holidays tend to bring a lot of joy, excitement, and fun this winter season.  However in many cases, the holiday season can be a trigger for feelings of grief, stress, and anxiety, and can really prove to be a challenge to get through.  For some, the thought of loved ones that you can no longer celebrate with, time constraints due to various family activities or economic stressors as you are pressured to exchange gifts and provide for your family, can really take the joy out of the holiday season.

While it is true that some measure of stress is often times beyond our control, we can all do a better job at reducing stress in our own lives.  Here are some practical stress-relieving techniques that may help to restore the joy this holiday season.  Don’t let the pressures of long lines, last minute shopping, family demands, cooking and cleaning cause you to miss the excitement that the holiday season can bring.  Avoid the holiday stress this year, and give yourself the gift of a stress-free life!

Review these tips on how you can manage stress this time of year and beyond:

* Identify your stressors. How can you change or eliminate them if you don’t know what they are?

* Avoid the stressors you can, change your reaction to the ones you can’t. There are some stressors that we simply can’t avoid, but try not getting as worked up about them next time. Try to see the positive spin in every situation….it’s not easy, and takes practice.

* Practice forgiveness.  The holidays are often a time for family gatherings.  Commit to ending the family grudges and setting the differences aside.  Learn to forgive.  Forgiveness is really for your benefit, not the other person.

* Avoid smoking, drinking, and drug use.  Many turn to these vices as a means to cope when stressed.  Not only do these behaviors further contribute to your risk of heart disease, they don’t even eliminate the stress.  Avoid the urge to indulge.

* Exercise.  Having a regular exercise routine is a great stress reliever. It will help you feel better, look better, and decrease your risk of developing heart disease.  Aim for a goal of at least 45 minutes per day, at least 4-5 days per week after consulting with your physician.

* Laughter.  There is nothing wrong with unwinding and having a good time.  Laughter has been shown to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the blood.  Laughter really is the best medicine.

* Be realistic when making plans.  Take charge of your schedule.  Don’t over commit. Know your limits, and learn to say “no.”  Prioritize and do things in order of their importance.

* Stick to a budget.  Financial pressures are often at the root of chronic stress, especially during the holiday season.  Don’t overextend yourself as it will lead to feelings of guilt and create further stress.

* Make the time to do the things you enjoy. Whether it’s hanging out with family, keeping holiday traditions, or curling up with your favorite book, be sure to remember to make time for you.

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!