Festive Season – Time to Check Your Meds and Wellbeing

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shutterstock_117097570The Festive Season is fast approaching. This means that a number of health and medical services will be taking a short break and may be closed over the Christmas and New Year periods. This may include your GP clinic as well as your HIV clinic, and your Pharmacy where you usually pick up your medications (or online pharmacy, if you order and receive delivery of your medications in that fashion).  It is important that you know when your health and medical services will be closed, so it’s a good idea to check with your relevant services before the holidays begin, particularly if your medication supply is running low.  This is important to ensure you have enough medicines in the holiday season.  For your HIV medicines, in particular, it would be a good idea to ensure you have at least one (1) month supply of treatment by mid-December, unless you have already made other arrangements with your doctor, clinic and pharmacy.  If you are needing any services offered by QPP, please note that we will be closed from midday Friday 18 December 2015 and re-open 9am Monday 04 January 2016.

Whilst on the topic of festivities and holiday breaks, remember that your health (including your mental health) is more important than any sense of obligation and stress you may feel about any ‘celebrations’ and ‘get-togethers’ with others.  Self-care is important all of the time, but it’s particularly important in stressful periods such as the festive season where added obligations and commitments may seem over-bearing on you.  Conversely, social isolation and loneliness might be factor among some people which can sometimes heightened during this period, and so can also affect your mental and emotional wellbeing.  If this is occurring for you, try to look for opportunities where you can engage with others – since simple measures like changing your immediate surroundings, doing something different, can help to generate greater feelings of wellbeing.  Talking with trusted others is a good first step to find out what helps you best.

Whether you feel you have too little, or too much, going on during the festive season and are feeling overwhelmed – there are services you can talk to.  Lifeline have trained counsellors who can listen and talk with you – you can phone Lifeline 24 hours a day on 13 11 14.  Alternatively, if depression or anxiety is affecting you consider calling Beyondblue 24 hours a day on 1300 22 4636.  Beyond Blue also have some helpful resources and support guides on their website: www.beyondblue.org.au/

If alcohol is offered at gatherings you may attend, plan to stick within the Alcohol Guidelines (www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol-guidelines).  The Guidelines, for both men and women, recommend:

  1. No more than two (2) standard drinks on any day, to reduce the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury; and
  2. No more than four (4) standard drinks on a single occasion, to reduce the risk of alcohol -related injury arising from that occasion.

It is possible to drink at a level that is less risky, while still having fun and relaxing, such as:

  1. Starting with non-alcoholic drinks and having these between alcoholic drink too (to quench your thirst, since alcohol can be dehydrating).
  2. Drink alcohol slowly. Too much alcohol can affect our ability to think rationally and make good decisions or control strong emotions or reactions (through what is called the brain’s ‘executive function’ which alcohol can affect).
  3. Mixing alcohol with other drugs can also cause heightened reactions you might not want. You should also avoid taking medicines with alcohol or other drugs (due to the risks of drug interactions).
  4. Eat before and while you are drinking – especially before which helps lower your blood alcohol concentration.
  5. Its best no to drink every day. Having regular alcohol-free days further reduces the lifetime risk of alcohol related disease or injury. Days off from alcohol also help reduce the negative effects of alcohol on your liver (alcohol is a poison to the liver) – this is additionally important if you have Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, so follow your doctor’s advice if he/she has given any additional advice about alcohol limits for your individual health situation.

Above all, whether the festive season is a joyful one, or a time you dread, remember the rule of self-care, and that includes not missing your daily HIV medicines.  If you travel away from home remember to take your medicines with you, and enough for the duration of your trip.  A dosette box/container often helps with adherence, where your medicines a carefully placed into daily chambers at the start if each week, then you can clearly see if you have taken them or not despite any festivities.  QPP has a supply of free dosette containers – PLHIV in Queensland can contact us and one can be mailed to you.  Alternatively, ask your pharmacist for one of these containers – some of them can be snapped apart, say if you going away for just a weekend you can take only those days portion with you.  Try to account for delays in your travels though, you never know if you might get held up for an extra day.  If you miss a dose, try not to worry, you can take a late dose if it’s been only a few hours, or just start again at the next scheduled dose, but remember 95% is the minimal adherence level you need to aim for overall…