It has arrived, once more. Unavoidable as always!
Even without us noticing, it always comes, every year, every winter, impossible to stop it… but who would want to?
To be realistic, even if it would be great, people and reality do not change just because it is Christmas.

Christmas is traditionally seen as a magical time, when dreams come true and joy and love for others reign, but it can be a period of great stress and much worse now, as stress levels are very high in this confused and insecure world we are living in.
The use of antidepressants is sky heigh as a result of the pandemic, the war and the economic crisis however, difficulties can show the best qualities and capabilities of humanity. The most important should be the ability to give real value to things that are truly relevant.
The happiest people are often those who have nothing. We must be attentive to the little things in life that can make us happy. Those little things are often the ones that make the big things happen in our lives.

Smiles, friendliness, kindness and understanding do not cost money, but they are the main ingredients of the Christmas spirit, helping to prevent stress and keeping humans healthy in body and spirit.

It is Wintertime
Even if, hopefully, human warmth undoubtedly grows in people at Christmas time, the cold outside is an irrefutable fact. It is winter, which is also inevitable and just as inevitable as Christmas!

Winter is a difficult time of the year for the body as well as the spirit.

In winter, even though there is Christmas… temperatures drop and inevitably bring health risks that are typical of the cold weather, especially for children and the elderly, as the cold reduces peripheral circulation and makes it difficult for the body to fight disease.

Although colds and flu are not caused directly by the cold, viral infections spread more easily because people spend more time indoors with poor ventilation. Breathing through your nose, rather than your mouth, helps to warm the air entering your lungs and to prevent breathing problems.

The skin and eyes also suffer from the cold because they become drier, and this is more noticeable in those who wear contact lenses.

For migraine sufferers the cold does not help either, it is difficult for diabetics to control sugar levels and we cannot forget the worsening complaints of those with joint diseases.
As for psychological problems, the “seasonal winter depression” is well known, since the short, grey days, predispose to melancholy. The brain is sensitive to cold and lack of light, releasing chemical substances into the circulation that make the person feel truly “miserable”.
It is also said that cold decreases the sexual appetite, but it is scientifically proven that sex is undoubtedly a great way to increase body temperature.

Christmas Hazards
Accidents happen more easily when houses are full of people with the excitement of the season, the decorations, the candles, the lights and the beautiful flames of the fireplaces. And then… there are falls, wounds and burns that all family doctors know only too well and would prefer not to happen… so that everyone has a calm and happy Christmas, a Christmas to remember, not to forget.

It does not mean that there should not be candles, fireplaces or tree lights… that would be worse, depressing and doctors would have to prescribe even more medicines. The important thing is to be careful and use a lot of common sense, even in the middle of the typical mess of Christmas time!

The Christmas Frenzy
Company and school dinners and parties, making lists and buying gifts, preparing the menu for different meals and, through all this, keeping the family in a good mood, as well as not forgetting a careful control of the family budget…

All this can be difficult and unbalance the mental equilibrium, even for the most resilient people, making it difficult to properly profit from the enchantment of this time of the year. Family problems can become evident with proximity and heavy meals with a few… or too many glasses of wine… resulting in an unhealthy climate of stress and psychological instability. A little exercise in the open air, preferably in daylight can help to ward off stress.
Anyway, please do not forget the turkey! In the tradition of roast turkey at Christmas there is a curious detail… science has said that turkey is rich in chemical substances that might trigger a calming effect on the human brain.

After all, tradition might have a scientific reason to be respected.

The Spirit of Christmas
Christmas is not just gifts, lights and trees full of ornaments.
The true meaning of Christmas is becoming very “confused”, maybe lost, even if there are only a few people that do not celebrate it. In fact, sadness exists every day, even on Christmas days, as evil, war and illness do not have a calendar with days off on feast days and hospitals cannot close for Christmas.

The truth is that not everyone has a home, nor do we live in a perfect world. It does not hurt to repeat that if everyone thought just a little more about “others”, our world would certainly be less imperfect.
It a time to rethink, reconsider, look closely at life that surrounds us, value what is really valuable, to be alive with joy and good health… or even less health… but alive, having people around us who love us, each one in their own way, though perhaps not exactly how we think it should be.

As always, love, compassion and understanding are still the best Christmas gifts we can give to others and to ourselves.

With understanding and the will to be happy, in harmony with reality and with those around us, fewer medicines will be needed to control stress and depression and even to treat the heart, because a happy heart gets much less sick.

May it be a very merry Christmas… and a healthy New Year… for all of us, each one in its own way!

Dr. Maria Alice Serrano e Silva
Consultant in General and Family Medicine
General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service
Administration Assessor – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve
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