Navigating the Holidays with Hepatitis C
The holidays are intended to be a period of relaxation, joy, and love. However, for some people, holidays may instead bring out feelings of stress, grief, and loneliness. The holiday blues are very real for many people managing health conditions. In addition, the holiday season is particularly challenging this year due to the pandemic. There are several factors to consider when managing hepatitis C during this festive time.
Alcohol is like that friend who is the centre of the party... it plays a significant role in holiday festivities. Not only does alcohol make great gift for acquaintances, friends and family (after all, everyone loves alcohol, right?), but it also helps with socialization and relaxation. In fact, the average American doubles their usual alcohol intake during the holiday season.1
Be honest about your alcohol intake and plan ahead
For people with hepatitis C, limiting or abstaining from alcohol is a known recommendation to minimize the risk of further liver damage. For those who will be entering the first holiday with a hepatitis C diagnosis, it is important to be honest with yourself: Will you abstain from alcohol completely this holiday season? Many people express facing social pressure to drink during this time. Remember, you and your healthcare team are the only individuals who have a right to comment about your health. Is is perfectly acceptable to tell family and friends that you will not be drinking this year without a reason as to why. Plan ahead to bring alcohol alternatives, such as sparkling wine or gin, mock-tails, or sugar-free sodas.
If you choose to drink this holiday season, make a clear decision about how many drinks you are comfortable with, and stick to that number. Sometimes, telling this number to someone you trust will help you stay on track throughout the night.
Be aware of pandemic influences
Holiday alcohol intake will likely be higher this year than any other year because of the pandemic. A study reported that there was a 54% increase in US alcohol sales during the week ending March 21, 2020 compared to the year prior.2 While alcohol is effective in managing stress in the short-term, it can have disastrous effects on mental health in the long-term if used too frequently.
Healthy body weight
Eating a balanced diet is important while managing hepatitis C. However, the holiday season is often a time where healthy eating habits slide. In fact, the average American gains approximately 0.8 pounds during the holidays.3 Yes, that doesn't seem much at face-value; however, this gain is not reversed after the holidays. Rather, this 0.8 pounds continues to accumulate yearly, leading to gradual weight increases. Eat in moderation, and holiday meals can still be enjoyed!
Isolation and loneliness
People with Hepatitis C often face more isolation during the holidays. When the holiday blues become too much, reach out to someone you can confide in. Our Hepatitis C community on Facebook is also a great place to seek support during this challenging time.