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7 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress with Sickle Cell

The holidays are upon us . This is the time of year we spend  celebrating  with friends and/or family. Cooking that delicious holiday meal, shopping for those special gifts, traveling to visit family, attending holiday parties and gatherings. The list goes on and on. These activities can add extra stress to anyone, but especially to those with sickle cell and their caregivers, who are often sickle cell trait carriers. How do you manage holiday stress? How do you enjoy this festive season without a sickle cell crisis? Here are 7 tips to help your holiday be joyous  and not stressful.

1. If you are responsible for the holiday family meal, avoid stress by preplanning. Think ahead of what to make for your meal. Don’t wait until the last minute rushing around trying to gather ingredients. Instead, shop online and have groceries delivered to avoid large crowds and long lines in the grocery store. Prep foods in advance. You can do some of your cooking and baking a day or two beforehand. This timesaving and stress-reducing method will avoid long hours in the kitchen on the actual holiday.

2. No one is an island, share the cooking duties. Delegate. Give family and/or friends opportunities to help and bring a dish. This way you are not solely responsible for the whole meal. People can bring side dishes, desserts, drinks or fruit and veggie platters.

3. Eat well during the holidays. Typical mealtimes may be off schedule. You might eat breakfast late because you are on vacation and off from work. Or even skip meals due to rushing around and attending holiday activities. Or your meals are not balanced because of eating more sweets and high fatty or caloric foods than usual. But remember to take care of yourself. Try and keep a healthy daily meal routine.

4. Don’t forget to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Lack of water can cause cells to become sticky and reduce proper blood flow in the body. Drink small amounts throughout the day. Eat fruits and veggies with high water concentration such as cucumbers or watermelon. Watch the alcohol consumption. People tend to drink more alcoholic beverages now than other times of the year. The As One Foundation recommends sickle cell trait warriors and sickle cell disease warriors consume half your body weight in water everyday to avoid dehydration.

5. Get plenty of rest. Don’t forgot your sleep during the holidays. There is lots of joy and excitement to keep you up late. This is especially tempting if you didn’t spend time with loved ones during the pandemic. The desire is to catch up but don’t push yourself too hard or too soon. Avoid stress and a possible crisis by resting, recuperating and rejuvenating.

6. Remember your medications. The holidays are busy and it can be easy to forget your meds. Yet, staying on track can avoid stress. Set timers to remind yourself when to take important medications. Don’t assume that missing a dosage or day is okay. Your compliance is critical when living with sickle cell and sickle cell trait.

7. Depending on where you live, cold weather comes along with the holidays. If cold is not managed well this can cause stress and a crisis. Exposure to cold air, wind and water may cause pain by triggering red blood cell sickling in exposed areas of the body. Dress warm and in layers. This will help avoid sudden temperature change. Be mindful of places where you might become cold such as ice skating rinks, outside caroling, sleigh rides or other winter holiday events. .

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration and cheer. Don’t let stress stop you from loving this festive time of year. With some planning, preparation and even soliciting a bit of help you can still have a joyous season with sickle cell. Season Greetings and Happy New Year!

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