Stress During the Holidays
by Mary Martha Abernathy, LPC
This is a time of year full of stress. We are quickly approaching Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year. This is a season when we spend a lot of time celebrating both with friends and family. It can also be a time where we experience increased stress and pressure. Knowing you are soon going to be spending long hours with your family, how do you prepare?
Below are some tips or ideas to help make the holiday celebrations more manageable and enjoyable.
Exercise: Research shows that exercise can help to increase your positive mood and fight against feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercise while with family can also provide that needed space for quiet or reflection, smaller group conversations, or stress relief, and it can create a personal “time out” from the stressors you are experiencing.
Change your Intake: Limit certain foods and beverages during the holidays. “Eating your feelings” may help for a short time, but it won’t change once the sugar has worn off or the alcohol is no longer in your system. Also, change your physical and emotional intake.
- Caffeine can mirror symptoms of anxiety in our bodies. If you are already feeling anxious about the holidays cut back a little on your intake or switch to decaf. Increasing alcohol may seem to help in the moment, but it can later impact your sleep and mood.
- Change up the environment. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a short walk outside (even if it is only to the mailbox or to your car). Listen to some relaxing music or watch a funny video. Create a break in the day to clear your head and check in with your own emotions. Changing the experience around you can help to recalibrate your mood.
Reality Check: When you get stuck talking to Aunt Mildred, who is telling you how to live your life, graciously break away from the conversation and connect with someone with a more positive attitude. That connection can be via personal contact, a phone call or even a text. Use your social network to your advantage! Do an internal check of the facts from your conversation or experience.
When our thoughts become misconstrued or faulty it can lead to more negative emotional experiences and more stress in our relationships.
Prayer/Mindfulness/Meditation: Take a few moments each day during your holiday season for reflection. During this time, take time to notice and observe. Use your five senses to experience the season by noticing the decorations, the lights, the sounds, the special foods, the activities, clothing. Be fully present while wrapping gifts, paying attention to the feel and sounds of the paper. Push all the thoughts from your mind but the present moment. Take time to give thanks, rejoice and celebrate the kindness you have experienced.