Peggy Defazio, PhD
Modern Perspective on Mental Health
By Peggy Defazio LPC
Coastal Counseling & Consulting LLC
Holidays: Full of Fun or Stress?
A lot of us look forward to the holidays. But we also find them very stressful. Why wouldn’t we enjoy all of activities, parties, food, programs, and decorations? It’s fun, right?
So, why do so many of us feel stressed by the holidays? Sometimes this stress is related to having unrealistic expectations of the holidays. For example, we may expect that everyone will get along with one another, or that everyone receives the perfect gift, or that the food is all homemade and delicious. No reason to feel stressed, right?!
Stress is the body’s way to give us a boost of energy and raise our ability to concentrate when we feel threatened. For most of us, when we feel we cannot meet our expectations, we feel threatened, which sets off the stress response. In a perfect world, short periods of stress are normal and can be helpful since that boost of energy helps us focus and stay alert in order to deal with a situation. But, if you’re already stressed by everyday life, the holidays can be too much.
Since most of us would face lots of opposition if we said that we wanted to skip the holidays this year, what do we do to keep from getting stressed out?
There two effective, and relatively easy, things you can do to help manage stress you cannot avoid: breathe and take care of yourself. Deep breathing, even though it seems totally lame, is especially important. The more stressed we feel, the more our bodies dump adrenaline in our bloodstream – increasing the amount of oxygen in our blood helps break down adrenaline quicker.
But taking care of yourself is a bit more complicated than focusing on breathing deeply – but it is just as important. Some suggestions for taking care of yourself include (but aren’t limited to): read a book, watch a funny show, talk to a friend, spend time in nature, and/or listen to music. The goal of taking care of yourself is to give yourself a pleasurable break from all of the demands that are on you and your time.
Remember, if you want to increase the chance that time with family and friends during the holidays is enjoyable for everyone, including yourself, you must breathe and take time for yourself.
More holiday stress management tips next time.