Here we are in the thick of the holiday season- lethargic from the Thanksgiving Day feast and looking forward to the upcoming month of gatherings, celebrations and feasts.  Though we are surrounded by images of joy and happiness, the reality for many is that the holiday season is a harsh reminder of challenges we face within our relationships and families. Here are some pointers to help make it through the highs and lows of the season:

Care for yourself.  Take time to spend with people you who support you and you enjoy being with.

Make time to destress.  What calms you down?  Meditation, deep breathing, prayer? Going for a walk, run, hike or bike ride?  Make sure you schedule time for a calm break every day.  It may only be 15 minutes but it can make all the difference between enjoying the season and feeling pushed and pulled and overwhelmed.

Let moderation be your guide. Do you really need that second serving of pie when two days later you have another celebration to attend?  You may feel that you have to return home for the family celebration but do you have to stay all day?  Maybe stopping in for just a few hours would be enough.

Be realistic. Sometimes just realizing ahead of time that the holidays aren’t going to be picture perfect can make it all easier.  Real holidays with real people are often filled with a combination of stress and joy and anxiety and happiness and frustration and love.  And that’s okay!

And now for something completely different.

A final consideration for the end of the year:  Do you have health insurance for 2017? Keep in mind that if you don’t sign up for insurance the fee for not having coverage is $695 per adult in the household ($347.50 per child under 18) up to a maximum of $2,085 or 2.5% of your annual income, whichever is higher!

The Affordable Care Act open enrollment runs until January 31, 2017, but if you want your insurance to be effective on January 1st you need to complete the application by December 15th.  Even if you think you can’t afford coverage, it’s important to apply.  You may be pleasantly surprised with the assistance that’s available.  In Frederick County, you can schedule an appointment with a navigator by going to or calling 855-288-DOOR (3667).

In Washington, Allegany or Garrett County use this website: or call toll free 1-888-202-0212 to schedule an appointment with a navigator.

Liz Thompson has been a Case Manager at the Frederick County Health Department for over 7 years.

Liz Thompson, MSW, has been a case manager at the Frederick County Health Department for over seven years.