Dealing with stress through the holidays

By: By Courtney Boyette - Healthy Carolinians

With Thanksgiving now over, the rest of the holiday season is quickly upon us. In just a few short weeks, we will also ring in the New Year. There is always so much to do, in so little time. It is important to focus on how to stay balanced, manage stress effectively and remain mindful that this time of year often can bring up a variety of emotions. These feelings can be either positive or negative across the spectrum and sometimes, a little of both. Continued stressors on a long-term basis can lead to depression and anxiety, which can impair an individual’s functioning in daily life and activities. Some common examples may be financial limitations, increased responsibilities with schedule constraints, travel plans, unwelcomed holiday guests/family discord, the desire to host the perfect function or even experiencing disappointment when things do not go as planned.

According to the Mayo Clinic & American Psychological Association (APA) websites, some practical tips can help you cope over the next month.

1) Take Time for Yourself: Remember that you are only one person and cannot always be everything, to everyone. Practice self-care and do things for yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed like taking a short walk, listen to your favorite music or reading a book/magazine. Whatever helps you, then try and make time for this “breather” in your routine to re-charge your batteries. The result is you are more energized and have the ability to sustain and accomplish the tasks at hand.

2) Acknowledge Your Feelings: You or someone around you may have experienced a recent death or the holidays can also be a reminder of those who may no longer be with us anymore. Remember this realization of sadness and grief is a natural response. It is okay to express whether it is through crying, sharing old memories, looking at old pictures or a tribute to celebrate the remembrance of the individual(s).

3) Be Realistic: Setting boundaries is key and acknowledging that holidays may not always be perfect or the same as the years before. As families grow, rituals and traditions often change, as well. Look for alternative ways to celebrate together and best include everyone. Learn to say no and set limits without feelings of resentment.

4) Stick to a Budget: Before you go out shopping, figure out how much is in annual holiday budget for food and gifts. Try to avoid buying happiness with an overabundance of presents. Consider a family/friend gift exchange, homemade gifts or donating to a charity in someone’s name. Overspending during the holidays will only lead to additional pressure come January and February when extra bills begin compiling along with typical household expenses that still need to be paid like rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.

5) Plan Ahead: Set aside certain days with designated activities to include shopping, baking, wrapping gifts and other necessary preparations throughout the month. Plan menus and make lists to stay organized. This allows for duties such as prep work, cleaning up and helps you avoid improvising at the last minute which may create even more stress.

6) Set Aside Differences: Some conversations are just better to have at a more appropriate time outside of the holiday season. Family strain and conflict that occur throughout the year or even multiple years, will not be resolved in one setting. Try and accept family and friends as they are, even if they do not live up to your expectations. Discussions may need to take place but are best to follow-up at a later date, if needed. This will ultimately keep valuable time together as a festive occasion.

7) Don’t Abandon Healthy Habits: Try and incorporate health and wellness into your daily schedule. Overindulgence can lead to additional guilt and stress over the holidays. Social events are filled with extra calories with sugary treats and sometimes alcohol. Be mindful of getting adequate sleep, eating healthy meals and snacks, in addition to continuing regular physical activity.

8) Reach Out: When you begin to notice that you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, seek out community, religious and other social supports. Early awareness and prevention is key to overall wellness. Explore volunteer activities where a sense of connection to others may be beneficial and remind you of the true spirit behind the season.

9) Seek Professional Help If You Need It: Finally, recognize when yourself or someone around you may need to take the next step and ask for additional guidance and support from a professional. These can be natural supports including support groups or a pastor or professionals like a primary care physician, counselor or a behavioral health specialist. Unaddressed stressors may result in more long-term, negative consequences. This can lead to irritability, mood swings which can impact one’s ability to sleep, impair appetite and increasing substance use, just to name a few. This can carry over to other areas of one’s life like completing household chores, taking care of family responsibilities, performing required occupational tasks and the list goes on.

How to Get Help?

Eastpointe offers a 24/7/365 Call Center with qualified staff who can provide counseling and a Screening-Triage-Referral process to access emergency services, mobile crisis team dispatch, walk-in clinics, routine appointments and linkage to other community resources. This number is 1-800-913-6109.

We hope that these recommended pointers will help you to make the most of your holiday season. Try and find the necessary balance to sustain and maximize your enjoyment through the New Year!

This article and others are brought to you monthly by the partners with Sampson County Healthy Carolinians. This group meets on a regular basis in Clinton. This organization is committed to address major health and social issues within the county. Their on-going efforts are to provide prevention, education and awareness of the available resources that can assist families with their overall health and wellness.

By Courtney Boyette

Healthy Carolinians