6 Tricks to Beating Post-Holiday Tics

So I’ll be honest here, Christmas was wonderful, but my tics have been on the upswing ever since. As usual, I sat down (on my exercise bike) and tried to figure out why. Christmas is my favorite time of year, so why on earth would my tics get worse now?
Well, here are my two cents. As always, I’m not a doctor, so please don’t take this as a diagnosis or as words from a professional. I’m simply sharing them now because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

3 reasons your tics (and mine) tics might be worse after the holidays:

1) Stress

all kinds of stress, even good stress, can make tics change. This kind of good stress is called Eustress. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines eustress as, “a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being.”
I love making cakes...LOVE IT. But it can be stressful to get everything up to my personal standards, particularly when there's a toddler involved.

I love making cakes…LOVE IT. But it can be stressful to get everything up to my personal standards, particularly when there’s a toddler involved.

If you think about it, a lot of the stress surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas is good stress. I’ve personally found, however, that eustress can rile up my tics just as much as bad stress, despite the fact that it’s caused by…well, good things.

I’m going to give you two reasons for stress in my life right now. One is good and one is not so good. But both are exacerbating my tics.
Take, for instance, the negative stress producer. I’m a creature of habit. My anxiety levels drop when I’m doing what is expected. For the last several years, our pastor’s family in Arkansas “adopted” my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas when we weren’t able to travel home to see our parents. Being “adopted” was wonderful. We would head over for an afternoon and evening of food and fellowship and feel as though we belonged to the family.
Now that we’re in North Carolina, however, holidays have obviously changed. I did not sing for a worship team at our new church like I would have at our old one. We were not only missing our family, but our “adopted” family as well. Was it a good Christmas? Absolutely. But it was different, and for those of us who struggle with angst in new situations, different turns our Fight-or-Flight responses on. (Unnecessarily, albeit, but the switch still turns on.)
The second scenario produced a good kind of stress…but it still produced stress. Because we were far from all family this year, we decided to host our own Christmas meal with a family from Arkansas that was transferred here as well. And it was a blast. Hours of Apples to Apples and many baby and toddler diapers later, we waved goodbye to our friends after a wonderful day.
So we’ve established that stress goes up on holidays because of new situations and social requirements. Not a stretch there, right? But here are two more stressors that might be easily missed, not only by you but also your family and friends.

2. Tic Cause #2: Too much food I don’t usually eat.

 I’ve written before about ways I eat carefully to keep my anxiety (and tics) under control. I was made very aware of that today. What’s funny is that I really didn’t eat lots of junk food. But I did eat more than usual on Christmas Day, and I can still feel the icky effects of it now.
Notice I decorate cake and cupcakes.

Notice I decorate cake and cupcakes. I rarely eat them.

Processed sugar and bad fats, in particular, make me feel all jumpy. Fried food is almost completely off-limits. I know better than to eat an entire slice of pie unless it’s about the width of my finger. Likewise, dark, dark chocolate is the way to go when it comes to candy. I eat 86% cocoa because milk chocolate and white chocolate also make me feel awful. Everyone has their limits, but after years of dealing with my body, I’ve realized that I just can’t handle much junk. And you know what? That’s probably a good thing.

According to Livestrong’s article, “Mental Effects of a Fast Food Diet,” fast food, particularly when eaten regularly and in large amounts, can bring on depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity. (I highly recommend reading this article.) And we all know that we need more depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity over the holidays, don’t we? HELLOOOOOOO, TICS!!!

3. Tic Cause #3: Not enough movement


My daughter has a daily dance session led by herself. We would all do well to follow in her footsteps.

We’ve harped before on how absolutely necessary exercise is to lower stress and tics. The problem with Christmas Day is that there’s usually not a ton of movement. Between stockings, presents, food, church, food, games with friends, Facetiming distant family, and turning around to see your horrendous kitchen covered in pots, pans, plates, and everything else under the sun, you just don’t get the usual movement that an average day provides.

I’m currently writing this post on my phone as I work out on my stationary bike in our guest room because guess what? I didn’t move enough yesterday, and now I’m paying the price.

What To Do With this Information:

You may decide that letting go and doing as you please during the holidays is worth the price you’ll pay in tics after. And that’s totally fine. I’m right there with you sometimes. I look at my tics and blow a raspberry at them.
But if your tics do really bother you to the point of desperation, there are steps you can take to try and prevent similar outcomes in the future:
  1. Try to plan your schedule in advance – Nothing is more stressful than being caught unprepared. (Hands up if you were like us this year and totally weren’t ready for your guests when they arrived…and it was totally your fault.) Try not to shop on Christmas Eve (guilty) by writing down your grocery list several days earlier. Try to pick up the house a little at a time. You don’t need perfection (ignore that one relative that likes to critique). You simply need to be ready enough that you’re not a complete spazball by the time your fun rings the doorbell.
  2. Plan for your schedule to change – Admit it, most of us are terrible at making last minute adjustments to the schedules. It drives us crazy. Planning ahead to change plans might seem silly, but if you’re prepared for the change, it might not seem as traumatic.
  3. Prepare food that you’re more comfortable with – Offer to bring your favorite healthy foods. If you’re the host, well, you’re in charge of the menu. Easy peezy lemon squeezy. If your family makes butter soaked turkey every year, volunteer to bring a smaller bird or meat that was cooked in a healthier manner. If you need to, eat a little bit of your favorite foods before you arrive at dinner so you don’t pig out on the bad stuff.
  4. Limit the junk snacks – My family knows now that the only chocolate I eat very much of is dark. As in 86%+ cacao. Over the years, they’ve begun to send me such because it doesn’t contain as much sugar, and that works better with my body. If you’re given all sorts of bad snacks, try and stash it in a shoe somewhere and then find somewhere (or someone) to dump it on later. The dozen foil wrapped Santas might look good, but you’ll probably pay for it dearly later in tics.
  5. Limit the caffeine intake – I’ve written extensively about the effect caffiene has on many people with Tourettes. Read it. Learn it. Embrace the Decaf. Or even better, the water. If you’re looking for something yummy and warm to drink, try my Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe: 1 or 2 Spoonfools of Cocoa Powder + 1 Packet of Stevia + Warm Almond Milk.
  6. Plan for periods of movement in your day – Whether it’s tossing the ball with the kids in the backyard or finding someone else who wants to go on a walk with you, or even setting up a dance off, (Dance Dance Revolution might be so ten years ago, but it’s still fun!) try to get in some actual movement during the day. Remember, exercise produces natural stress fighting biochemicals! You’ll thank yourself three days later when you’re NOT suffering the effects of inactivity + bad food + stress.

I hope this helps. I will certainly be planning my Christmas differently next year, as it’s nearly a week after Christmas, and I’m still feeling the effects. Have a great new year, and maybe try and put some of these tips to practice for your party. I, for one, will be at home in my pajamas, probably watching Star Trek with my husband as we play with our daughter’s Megablocks.

Happy 2017!

Have any warning tales to share or any ideas to give? Just comment in the box below! Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter for extra information about neurological disorders, education, and encouragement. And as always, thanks for reading!

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