Dealing With Holiday Stress

I offer these comforting and wise words as originally written by Dr. Thomas Reuth. He said the following for those who need to know about overcoming the pitfalls of the holidays.

We are entering the holiday season and for many of us this can be a difficult time of the year. Below are some thoughts that might be helpful in making this a more pleasant holiday season.

Christmas (and Thanksgiving) is usually celebrated by the gathering of family and friends and a lot of hurried activities. These things can lead to a pleasant holiday or upsetting experience that might lead to depression, family fights, and reactions to stress.

For many of us the fact that Christmas (and Thanksgiving) is people oriented is an important fact to consider. People who have lost a loved one or who are experiencing any form of loss of a person such as divorce, separation frequently feel a loss more acutely at this time of the year. People who are lonely, who have experienced the recent loss, or by nature are isolated, withdrawn, or without supports, may be the most vulnerable.

If you are in that situation you might seek out Christmas (and Thanksgiving) events held in the community for persons without families. You might consider giving a phone call to a crisis line just to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving or a Merry Christmas. This might also be a time to explore forgotten friendships or supporting relationships that need to be rekindled.

Perhaps this would be a good time to start up a friendship with another person who is basically alone for the holidays also. Another important thing to do is to plan a structured day for yourself with those that you work with, especially on the days when your usual routine may be broken. Keep busy and involved so that the loneliness and blues will have a harder time sneaking up on you.

In addition to being alone, being around people can also present difficulties. Some of us have experienced the holidays that is especially rough for families who are already having some difficult times getting along. Two issues seem to be relevant: an unresolved conflict or tension between the family and the stress of the holidays making everyone more easily irritated and less tolerant of other people.

If your family has some touchy areas, perhaps she could think about who you will see that you had difficulties with. One thing family have done is to make a contract for a truce during the holidays. Two people may agree that: for Christmas, “if you won’t complain about how much money I spend, I won’t complain about how much food you eat.”

For other families a structural day of letting the children feel their oats without bothering the adults. And straying away from or rigidly structuring the use of alcohol might be helpful and/or necessary things to do.

Some thoughts about decreasing stress might also be helpful because they might help reduce the tendency to be bugged by other people that have the tendency to fly off the handle. Christmas (and Thanksgiving) is a time of much activity, pressures, expenditures of money, etc. These are all areas causing stress within us. The following are some simple concept used in the management of stress.

  1. Learn your personal psychological reactions to stress-upset stomach, stiff neck, etc. Block these psychological reactions by the take four approach: take a deep breath, hold it for the counter of four, and let it out slowly, feeling the tension decrease. Repeat until psychological symptoms seemed to lessen
  2. There are three ways to deal with stressful situations: ignore them, deal with them, or accept them. The two most appropriate ways to deal with the stressful situation are dealing with them or accepting it. Ignoring a situation may delay the stress but will not reduce it.
  3. Certain activities help us deal with stress:
  4. Know and except your limits.
  5. Develop realistic expectations.
  6. Balance the yes and no pain in your life. For instance, the careful making of commitments and use of assertive techniques to take care of yourself.
  7. Ask for help-use friends and supports.
  8. Develop within yourself a sense of flexibility, extroversion, inner directedness and deciding to do things because you feel they are appropriate.
  1. Reduce the overload in your environment.
    1. Use planning techniques.
    2. Monitor and avoid the amount of change in your life during especially stressful periods.
    3. Establish routines of behaviors such as learning to do things in a certain systematic way, so you don’t have to think to problem solve about every act you can make.
    4. Use time blocking, that is, do certain tasks at certain times each day or on certain days, based on the system of Mondays for washing, Tuesdays regarding, etc.
    5. Plan mental health days, that is, even if you’re only ten-minute, take breaks.
    6. Use systematic problem-solving to facilitate decision-making. That method is to identify the problem, change it into a goal to achieve, look at all the alternative methods of achieving it, choose a plan, try it out, evaluate its outcome, if the outcome is not desirable, start over.
  2. It’s possible to enter into a training program to deal with stress. Stressed proof your body by getting sufficient food, sleep, exercise, and physical relaxation daily.

It is true that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays can be a difficult time, but with planning, they can become the true celebration they were meant to be.

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