As Christmas draws closer, and emotions escalate, we asked a pro for some tips. Anne Dibala, M.D., is a psychiatrist, addictionologist, and The Recovery Coach™ ( )

SD: Anne, we’re into the home stretch, and the pressures are getting worse, not better. Can you tell us how to cross the finish line in style?

Anne: What’s happening now is people are getting very frustrated and having more difficulty containing their emotions. They feel so overwhelmed and there’s so much to do, they can’t meet other’s expectations or their own.

Then because of the pressure of time, we tend to take less care of ourselves. We don’t nurture ourselves as well. In a word, we’re burning the candle at all ends.

SD: Hmmm, sounds like a vicious cycle.

ANNE: Exactly. It becomes worse and worse until you say, “I just can’t handle it any more.”

Or someone comes up to you who cares about you and says, “Gee, you look really frazzled,” and allows you to talk with them. The question to answer is what’s really important to you in your life right now.

SD: Why do we let ourselves get so overloaded?

ANNE: Often the person who’s on overload is concerned about everyone else, but if they don’t take care of themselves, take some time out, and slow the pace down, they can’t be there for the important people in their life – their family, their co-workers, their partner, their friends, their children, their colleagues and clients.

SD: But what if you want to just shut down and withdraw. Is there something wrong with that?

ANNE: Call a time out? That’s fair. That can be an answer for a short period of time. As we say, “Take a break before you break down.”

SD: What if the person you want to take that break from is a partner or spouse? From what I see, couples tend to fight a lot more this time of year.

ANNE: Sure, you can take a break from that. Set off disputes for a few days or till after the holidays, when you can give the issues your full, undivided attention. You need to realize that you have to have respect for yourself, for your partner and for your relationship.

SD: What would be a good way to alert your partner?

ANNE: How about, “Honey, I feel overwhelmed. I’m really exhausted. I do love and care for you. There’s so much going on that we’ve been all doing that I just haven’t had enough sleep. I’ve had too much coffee. Maybe we can just take a little while now and take break. I love you. I care for you. I want to be able to communicate. Can you give me some time for myself?”

SD: Why do couples tend to fight more this time of year?

ANNE: Major stressors in relationships are money and sex, and these tend to be more of a problem this time of year because there’s less money and less time for relationships. When you’re stressed and exhausted, it’s hard to have a good sexual relationship. It requires some time and undivided attention to the other person.

SD: So what would you suggest?

ANNE: Take time to nurture your relationship; it nurtures you. Arrange for a babysitter and give yourselves a few hours away from the parties, away from the shopping, just for the two of you. You’ll find yourselves both refreshed and renewed and more in harmony with the spirit of the season.

SD: You’ve talked about folks who are partnered, but what about those of us who are on-our-own right now? What tips do you have?

ANNE: You can spend it with friends doing things that are fun. Remember to let the Kid inside you do some things spontaneously. Go out for a special meal, to movies, to all the Christmas activities available this time of year. If you live in an area near places of natural beauty, get outside and enjoy them with friends who enjoy the outdoors. If you like sports, go on an overnight ski trip.

Associate with people who are enjoying the season. If you’re passing carolers on the street, join them for a couple of choruses. Say “hello” to the Santa that you see in the store. Wear a Santa hat to the mall.

Keep Christmas light and practical. Not complicated.

SD: Anne, have you done that yourself?

ANNE: Yes. I’ve worn my Santa hat shopping in the mall. People loved it. Here’s another idea, put jingle bells on your front and back door knobs.

SD: That sounds good. But let me ask you this. What if you’re getting overwhelmed and think it goes a bit beyond something a friend or partner can help you with?

ANNE: The holidays can be periods of severe depression that do require more intense help and everyone should be aware of the resources of counselors, ministers, coaches and local mental health professionals.

SD: What about all the parties and goodies, the sugar and alcohol?

ANNE: Poor diet and nutrition are stressors on our body at any time, holiday or not. You’ve seen how your kids go wild after sugar sprees! If we overdo it with food and alcohol, this stresses the system. We get emotional and physical hangovers, we tend to feel very tired and irritable, our sleep gets disordered, and all those conditions will make us feel worse and add to the stress we’re already experiencing.

SD: That makes sense.

ANNE: Oh, and then people feel guilty about those things, you know, when they’ve made poor choices.

SD: Well, that’s what NOT to do. Can you tell us what TO do, nutritionally.

ANNE: I recommend eating three balanced meals a day. These don’t have to be elaborate; just eat three times a day. Avoid a lot of caffeine-containing beverage. Even non-cola sodas do contain caffeine. And don’t forget about plain old water. Also a good multivitamin, a good B complex, and vitamin C. But use them in moderation. Even too much vitamin C can have side effects. Too much and you’ll have gastrointestinal problems. You don’t want to have to go more than you have to at this time of year! Of course you need to check your specific needs with your personal physician.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a time to enjoy and relish. Maintain some degree of moderation, but give yourself permission to have joy at this time – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual joy.

SD: What should someone do who’s in recovery, how do they handle all the parties?

ANNE: Firstly, nurture yourself. Recognize the importance of not drinking and maintaining your recovery program. This may be a time to spend extra time on your recovery program with your sponsor, getting extra support for supportive people. I tell my coaching clients to remember to make the decision not to drink. Sometimes we forget the obvious.

This is also a great time to take some actions if you think that drinking may be somewhat of a problem for you or someone you care about. You can go to my website, , for more resources.

SD: Sounds good to me. One last thing. I know you’re a psychiatrist and under a lot of pressure yourself this time of year. What’s one thing you add to your own life this time of year?

ANNE: I love music. I listen to music every day. I find it very relaxing, encouraging and energizing. I sing in a choir and attend musical presentations, and this gives me great joy. They are also activities I can share with friends and ways to form new friendships. So I’d recommend getting some music into your life.

PRESCRIPTION: Let some music in your ears and out your mouth. It doesn’t matter how well you can sing. That doesn’t matter at all. Get an injection of music.

Tell you what I also do, I collect toys, electronic toys, ones that blink and sing and move. I’ll often pick up one or two and will encounter a child for whom I think this is just the toy, and pass it on to them.

SD: Thank you, Anne, and Happy Holidays!

ANNE: And the best of holidays to you and your readers also.

Author's Bio: 

©Susan Dunn, MA, Marketing, . Anne Dibala, M.D., is TheRecoveryCoach™, , . Anne and her staff tailor programs for their client’s personal needs, regardless of where you are in your growth curve. Reach further goals or get unstuck. HOPE + HELP + ACTION = RESULTS.