2016 News Releases
Tips for managing holiday stress
While for many the upcoming winter holidays are times of joy and togetherness, even in the best scenarios there may be stress and worry about everything from practicalities (travel, shopping, cooking and schedules) to interpersonal dynamics (partners, families, friends and employers). For others, the holidays can be particularly difficult when forced interactions with unwanted people are required, when reality doesn’t live up to the media’s image of perfectly orchestrated good cheer, when exhaustion from competing demands peaks, or when loneliness and depression are intensified. Sally Stabb, Ph.D., professor and director of the counseling psychology program at Texas Woman’s University, shares the following tips to help ease your journey through the holidays:
- Be planful.
Try to anticipate what times, events or interactions during the holidays will be most stressful. Make a plan in advance to manage these and to take care of yourself. This may mean scheduling time for self-care, tasks you need to accomplish, taking a break from others or alternatively, connecting with a support system outside of those involved directly in your holidays. Let others who are impacted know in advance what you can and can’t commit to doing.
- Have a realistic view.
Holidays are seldom as picture-perfect as advertisers and greeting card companies would have us believe. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. You don’t have to be happy all or even some of the time. Some things won’t go as planned so try to roll with unexpected changes and regroup. Be open to new ways of doing things as families are ever-changing and evolve over time. If there has been loss among your family or friends, acknowledge your feelings and know it is normal to be sad, cry or grieve during the holidays.
- Say “no.”
When people ask more of you than you can realistically give, feel free to create boundaries and decline. Remember that when you say “yes” to things you really don’t want to do, or feel uncomfortable, it often results in feeling overwhelmed or resentful. It’s okay to ask others to help out, too; you don’t have to take everything upon yourself.
- Take care of yourself.
You know yourself better than anyone else. If it will help you to periodically spend some time alone, take a walk, call a friend or listen to your favorite music, plan on doing that. If you have a regular daily routine, try to stick with it as much as you are able; exercise when you usually exercise, eat what you usually eat, and sleep when you usually sleep. If you must spend time with people whom you experience as toxic or abusive, do your best to limit that exposure and seek support throughout.
- Focus on experiences, not on things.
While there can be pressure to overspend during the holidays, remember that what tends to be most meaningful to us are the interactions we have with others. Plan to do pleasant activities with others, enjoy old or create new traditions, and keep within your budget. Happiness can’t be bought, and family conflicts can’t be fixed with gifts.
- Find common ground.
The 2016 holiday season is likely to be particularly difficult for many people due to the divisions in our country reflected in the recent political landscape. If this is true in your family or among your friends, seek common ground when you are spending time together. There are usually many things about which we agree, even when there are important things about which we disagree. Save intense airing of grievances for a period of time that is less high-pressure and expectation-filled for everyone.
- There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely.
Some people are quite content to spend holidays on their own, and if you are one of them, be true to yourself. However, if being alone is painful for you and you do not have family, be that biological, blended or a family-of-choice with which to spend holidays, connect with others in different ways. You may choose to volunteer at a soup kitchen, visit with children or elders who are unable to leave assisted living facilities or group homes, or attend religious, spiritual or cultural events in your community. Reaching out to those in need or those with similar interests can help lift you up while you are feeling down.
- Seek professional help if needed.
If you find yourself feeling consistently down or anxious, are experiencing multiple physical symptoms of distress, are chronically feeling hopeless and/or unable to manage doing everyday things, seek consultation from your doctor or mental health professional. There is assistance available via text, online, by phone and in person at local health and mental health organizations.