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MU Psych Central – Holiday Stress

Fight holiday stress with modest expectations and proper self-care

 

by Dr Nicolle Mayo - December 18, 2015

The holidays may be pleasant for some, but they also bring significant stress and anxiety to many others. Often this stress and anxiety is associated with a number of things including family expectations, toxic relatives, chaotic plans, and unhappy memories associated with the holidays. If this were not enough, holiday stress also increases the likelihood of sickness because of a compromised immune system and cold weather.

Although many of us continue the traditions of years past, we may not consider alternative options to reducing stress. Many people operate on automatic pilot, buying presents and spending lots of money on relatives and friends, cooking elaborate meals (some of which we may not even like), and trying to decide how to spend time with relatives it is nearly impossible to visit in a short period of time.

Tyler Benelli, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Laurel Behavioral Health, recommends reviewing and modifying the expectations we put on ourselves to have the “perfect” holiday. What if we sit down and re-examine all of the traditions and family expectations placed on us? What if we then chose which traditions to keep or not keep? Perhaps this may alter our way of thinking about the holidays. Changing our thoughts, expectations, and boundaries around holiday activities can really save us from the havoc we put ourselves through. Limiting the time we spend cooking, spending money, and visiting with family may be the best medicine to reducing stress.

In order to begin the process of modifying expectations, Tyler also suggests that we learn to be mindful. Being mindful by living in the present moment involves leaving thoughts about the past and future behind, while focusing on what is happening right now. It is important that we check-in with how we might be doing at any given moment. Questions we may ask ourselves when doing a self check-in include things like, how am I feeling right now? Is there tension in my body? If feeling anxious or tense, what can I do to relax right now? What is it that is currently increasing my stress? How can I make appropriate changes to take care of myself over the next few days or weeks? These questions are basic, but powerful guides used to increase self-awareness.

When we are self-aware, we are thoughtful about our needs, mentally and physically. Tyler recommends finding enjoyable activities to engage in to reduce holiday stress and anxiety. These activities may vary from person to person, but some suggestions include: reading an enjoyable book, exercising, talking to a trusted friend, focusing on breathing deeply, praying or meditating, cleaning, taking a hot bath, crocheting, drinking tea, going for a walk, playing an instrument, or even singing. Other times, the act of simply cutting something out of our schedules is enough to reduce the burden on our shoulders.

Although the holidays are busy and chaotic, they do not have to take over our lives. We can make choices that help ourselves and others.. It may be helpful to talk to an objective party about how to reduce your stress if it is too overwhelming and affecting you socially, at work, or with family. Therapists, like Tyler Benelli at Laurel Behavioral Health, can help alleviate your sources of stress and guide you to take appropriate steps to care for yourself.

Credits:

Writing: N/A

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Produced by Vogt Media

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