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Christmas is here … again!

Christmas time is here once more, as inevitable as always.

Even if you do not notice that time goes by, Christmas always comes, each winter – it is impossible to avoid. It submerges – temporarily – the horrors of the actual world reality, like a “happy pill” that acts for a few weeks. But who would wish it to be different?

As a matter of fact, this year it was even decided, by a strange general consensus, that Christmas should arrive earlier! The unavoidable, impossible to escape, unlimited publicity that invades everything and everybody everyday has decided to convince us that Christmas has arrived earlier.

The truth is that anything goes, in the desperate attempt to increase profits with the traditional Christmas shopping.

People feel the need, the obligation to celebrate, to buy presents, to have parties, because it is what should be done at this time of year. Many do not even know what they are celebrating, but they just seem to remember, at least once a year, that they are not alone in this world. Better once than never!

Coming back down to earth, we have to admit that people and real life do not change just because it is Christmas.

Tradition and family rituals are a safe harbour during times of chaos such as the ones we are living in and help us to run away from the frightening reality that temporarily vanishes, hidden by the lights, the decorations, the parties, the presents.

If you enjoy Christmas traditions and follow what they say, letting the warmth of the festive spirit invade you, you will certainly feel better in yourself and with the people around you. Much better than all the other days of the year.

As the warm feelings grow inside our hearts, we hope that, for many lucky ones, the temperature inside the houses also rises, in front of the comforting warm flames of the fireplace. But outside it is winter and the cold is as inevitable as Christmas!

The temperatures drop, bringing inevitable health risks especially for older people and children.

Winter is a difficult time of the year for the body and also for the mind.

The cold weather diminishes the peripheral circulation, making it more difficult for the body to fight disease.

Colds and flu are not directly caused by the cold, but result from viral infections that propagate more easily when people spend more time in closed environments with less ventilation.

Please wash your hands, even if it is cold, as the flu virus “likes it cold” and circulates easier when the weather is cold.

Breathing through the nose, instead of through the mouth, helps to warm the air that enters the lungs preventing respiratory problems. The skin and the eyes also suffer with the cold as they turn drier; that can be especially noted by people wearing contact lenses.

For diabetics, it becomes more difficult to control sugar levels, for migraine sufferers the cold does not help at all and the worsening of all the complaints characteristic of the rheumatic diseases should not be forgotten.

The winter seasonal depression is a well-known psychological problem, as the short, sometimes grey, winter days predispose melancholia. The brain is very sensitive to the cold and the lack of light, sending into the circulation chemical substances that make the person feel really miserable.

It is also said that the cold diminishes the sexual drive, but it is true beyond doubt that sexual activity is a great way to increase the body temperature. Well, it certainly is … but let us go back to Christmas!

In many countries, Christmas is probably the most important time of the year, although the religious meaning of the season is presently not very relevant and at times even completely forgotten. Not many participate in any traditional religious events and an alien from a distant planet visiting Earth at this time of year would be convinced that Christmas is a festival to the Gods of Money and Shopping!

The real meaning of Christmas is very “confused”, and probably lost somewhere in the darkness of the ‘suffering world’ we live in. But even without understanding very well what it is about, most people celebrate it their own way.

Sadness exists everyday, even on Christmas Day, and evil, war and sickness take no days off. Thus hospitals do not close for Christmas.

The truth is, not everyone has a house and there are no magic wands to change this. The world is far from perfect, but if everyone would think a bit more about others, this world would certainly be less imperfect.

And after all these well-known clichés that maybe someone will pay attention to, let us say “Glory to God (to each one’s own God) in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”.

In the end, everything is a matter of good will.

The best Christmas presents we can offer are love, understanding and compassion.

Hoping that this one will be a wonderful Christmas for all of us, each one in their own very personal way.

Healthy Christmas wishes,
Dr. Maria Alice

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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service / Medilagos. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve