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Here is an article from our archives written in 2008.
How are you feeling about the holidays approaching this year? With all the financial chaos, these holidays may be some of the most challenging in many years. Read here about ideas and suggestions to reduce the stress of this holiday season.

This year in particular, there are many reasons to address the need for holiday stress reduction. With the trauma of our global economic crisis only beginning to sink in, you may be very worried about the stability of your job, your healthcare coverage, or housing. Even more traumatic, you may have lost your job or home, or be holding on by a narrow margin. As we know, in economic downturns, negative behaviors increase. People drink more alcohol, are more irritable, and have more trouble sleeping. Divorce rates go up and kids have more difficulty in school. With these negative cycles so easy to fall into, what can be done to do more than simply survive through the holidays?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is your history around the holidays? Do you have good memories or difficult ones? It’s important to make your goal reachable for this season. If you’ve never had a positive Thanksgiving or Christmas it might be unrealistic to expect this year to be completely smooth sailing.
  2. How much social support do you have? The more isolated you are, the harder it is to feel a part of the holiday season, unless you enjoy having more time to spend on solitary activities. Do you have a history of less than ideal social support in your life, and do you understand why? Loneliness is hard at any time for most people but it can be especially tough during the holiday season when it “seems” like everyone else has parties, celebrations, or family and friends around them.
  3. Are you overly busy? These days, for most people, we take this for granted. Preparations, and gift giving become burdens rather than pleasures.
  4. Are you worried or very concerned about money, or are you in a financial crisis? Obviously, financial worry is a huge source of stress and suffering. It isn’t helped by all the media related bombardment we receive related to the serious difficulties people are having. It may be hard not to feel angry, ripped off, helpless, anxious, or guilty in the face of such a large crisis.
  5. Do you already have health or mental health issues? Living with acute or chronic health problems puts a large strain on your life. If you have a family, you may feel guilty or inadequate, which can be exacerbated by the push to be happy and grateful at the holidays.

Practical tips and suggestions for managing this year’s holidays:
You may have heard some or all of these before, but it’s never a bad idea to be reminded.

  1. Take time to assess your needs and desires this year. Try to look at replacing unhealthy stress-coping behaviors with healthy ones. Healthy behavior doesn’t have to cost money. Hikes and walks are free as are spending a little more time with family, friends, or reaching out to someone new.
  2. Understand time management. If you’re way too busy, learn how to make better use of your time. Even if you change one habit, or consolidate one task into smaller chunks, it can affect your stress level and mood positively. Try looking at taking small steps towards change rather than large changes that are too hard to implement. Make a short list of time wasters you want to reduce and try reducing one of these by 15 minutes to half an hour, (for example surfing the net.) If you’re really unable to do this, you may have a habit you need help to break.
  3. Assess your mood, your drinking, drug use, spending, gambling, etc. and look at ways to get help if you need it. Counseling doesn’t have to be expensive. Many companies have free EAP services. You can access insurance, look for sliding fee scale or go to a free support group. The first step is to decide if you need help and take the risk of reaching out. One hint: if someone else is worried about your behavior or if you’ve had negative consequences because of a behavior and haven’t been able to stop, you may want to listen to the concern and get an evaluation from a professional.
  4. Learn how to manage worry and anxiety. Try simple techniques like belly breathing or one restorative yoga pose, unclench your jaw, or close your eyes for 2 minutes and imagine a place that brings you some peace. Coping with worry and anxiety isn’t always easy or simple, but again, small steps can help.
  5. You’ve heard this before, but it may be worth repeating: Expensive gifts don’t buy love.
  6. Try to hang around people who are supportive and reduce the number of negative, critical people in your life if you can. If not, try to bring in more positive people.
  7. Find ways to cope with frustration, disappointment, and loss. For some, the spiritual arena is very helpful. For others, it’s being out in nature, making art, or writing. Life is going to be filled with challenge. Accepting and coping with difficulties are skills we can all work towards learning.

If you have a story about overcoming stress at the holidays we would love to hear about it. Please write to info@womenstherapyservices.com.  We sincerely hope you find some fulfillment or self-understanding during the 2008 holiday season.


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