Stress and the Holidays
Joseph Mark, LMHC, Flagler Hospital
It is truly ironic that during the holiday season, when we should really
be enjoying life and those around us, we often feel overwhelmed and frustrated
by all the added activities. Visitors and guests, shopping, holiday baking,
cleaning, and entertaining, just to name a few things. For most people
the holiday season starts before Thanksgiving and continues on through
New Year's Day, and all of the extra activities get added to the usual
stress of everyday life. If you aren't coping well with the normal
stress of life, then the holidays can only make things worse.
In reality we should already be giving thought and effort to managing stress
in our lives regardless of the season. This should start with the basics
of good health practices and close attention to our emotional needs. It
is all too easy to overlook our own health and feelings when we are faced
with the responsibilities of family, friends, and career, but it is so
very important to care for ourselves, almost as necessary as the air we
breathe. So, take a deep breath and consider a new approach to this coming
holiday season. Sit back and consider a few changes that can improve how
well you manage and enjoy this wonderful time of the year.
To start with, consider that it is important to take care of yourself so
that you are better able to meet the needs of others. Then give some thought
to stressors in your life that easily "trigger" emotional responses.
For many people this can be financial issues, or relationships, but for
others it's just the added activities of the holidays. Once you have
given some thought to what it is that really gets to you then you can
begin to prepare a plan to cope with a healthier approach.
Here are some general suggestions on coping with holiday stress:
1. First of all, try to have realistic expectation and "don't
bite off more that you can chew" as the expression goes. A few simple
holiday traditions can go a long way, and still allow time to relax.
2. Make a basic plan for the holidays, while still being flexible enough
to accommodate others.
3. Stick to a budget. Establishing that budget can be part of the basic plan.
4. Be easy on yourself financially. That's where some of the traditions
and spirit of the holidays can help us realize how important time spent
with someone is more special than money spent.
5. Decide early to stick to a healthy diet, so that when a special treat
comes along you can feel better about indulging…but in moderation.
6. Learn to say NO. Establishing healthy boundaries will give you more
time to do what is most important to you. No lengthy explanations or "excuses"
7. If you already exercise regularly, don't give it up during the holidays.
If you don't, then start, even if you just take a walk with someone.
8. Don't isolate yourself. Whether it's walking with a friend or
visiting a relative, it is also important to spend time with others.
9. It is always important to be in touch with our feelings. The holidays
can bring good memories, but also remind us of sad times. Expressing feeling
in an appropriate and safe setting can be very healthy, whether it is
with a friend or a counselor.
10. Finally, take time out occasionally and relax. Have fun. Listen to
music. Take 15 minutes to yourself and just breathe.
Be active in managing stress so that the holidays don't become just
another time that you dread, but rather a time of joy and relaxation.