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How to Manage High Stress Periods…Like the Holidays!!

By Dr. Kristin Heins

I came across an article on the Mayo Clinic website (www.mayoclinic.org) on stress management around the holidays and really liked it. It may be especially helpful during the hectic and emotion-filled holiday season; but, is also a useful life approach to stress management. Most of us know that stress and feeling overwhelmed does not limit itself to holidays!! When stress is at it’s peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. The feeling is often one of overwhelm vs. support. Below are ten ways to try and shift the balance back to a more supportive experience:

headache1. Acknowledge your feelings: If historical or present day loss and sadness exist, accept that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings.

2. Reach out: If you feel lonely or isolated – seek out community, faith-based or other social events as they can offer support and companionship. Volunteering may also lift your spirits and broaden friendships.

3. Be realistic: The holidays may not (likely won’t) be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if adult-children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, videos, skyping.

4. Set aside differences: Set aside familial grievances during gatherings until a more appropriate time for discussion. Try and find understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry – chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress just like you may be.

5. Stick to a budget: Before you shop, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Ways to manage budgets:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange

6. Plan ahead: Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. Ask for support for party prep and cleanup.

7. Setting Limits: Saying yes when you want to say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If you can’t participate in a project or activity, try and be clear about which ones you can say no to and take that time for other activities like rest and self -care.

8. Keep healthy habits: 

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day as it helps with both physical and emotional wellbeing.

9. Take a breather: Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slows your breathing and restores inner calm.

10. Seek professional help if you need it: Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, seek help from a professional.

I hope that this helps make the holidays more enjoyable for you and yours. Happy Holidays!

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Managing Stress this Holiday Season!

Managing Stress this Holiday Season!
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My formula:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Self-care
  3. Social engagement
  4. Assertiveness

Accept there are things that you can’t change or control. Focus on the positives, consider forgiveness.

Self-care: Don’t postpone exercise, pleasurable activities, good sleep, or healthy eating because “you are too busy”; you are only giving away your anti-stress “free medication”.

Be social: time to follow the plan and not the mood! Stressful times are the right time to say “yes” to that coffee, that drink, that dinner with friends/family etc..

Be assertive: say what you need and want respectfully, don’t hold back. Also learn to say “no” to unnecessary commitments.

Take pauses, get into mindfulness practice! Meditation is the “new thing” for a reason. Download a meditation app to your smartphone. 5 minutes a day can make a big difference.

Warmly,
Dr. Maria Chaparro, Registered Psychologist in Supervised
Practice

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