Coping with Holiday Stress

Coping with holiday stress may be a bit easier with these tips.

“If it’s not messy and it doesn’t drip over the sides, it’s not a holiday hot chocolate -it’s just an average hot chocolate” – Alex Guarnaschelli. The ‘best time of the year’ is often messy, like holiday hot chocolate. The holiday season is usually fraught with a variety of stressors; in this article for coping with holiday stress, we’ve compiled some great tips to help you. For many, the end of the year isn’t very peaceful–the organization and planning for holiday parties, travelling, bringing family together, finances, etc. The holidays descend upon us and can bring layers of stress. In a survey conducted in 2015, 62% of the participants felt an elevation of stress during the season. In order to grasp the changes and feelings that emerge, individuals may go through a ‘shifting set’ which involves adjusting our mental capacities and functioning to complete tasks. The skills that develop include time management, awareness, planning, memory and the switch of focus. Most of us perform these on a daily basis, however, during this time of year, coping with holiday stress makes the demand greater. Our prefrontal cortex goes into overdrive and the generation of new brain cells slows down. As a result, we have less ability to cope with these stressors.

The holidays can also highlight various negative emotions, especially grief and loss. Those who have experienced a recent loss may find the holidays particularly difficult. Grief, a response to loss, can take physical, behavioural and cognitive forms. The more awareness you have of what you’re going through, the easier it may be to navigate the cascade of common emotions associated with grief, such as sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger and fear.

As we enter this time of year at full speed, its important to remind yourself of a few things about coping with holiday stress. Grief is a process of healing and it’s healthy to feel the pain you’re experiencing rather than avoiding it. Setting healthy boundaries and limits for yourself, like saying no, is important. This may include saying no to parties, events, gift giving or anything else that exacerbates your emotional pain. Bring kindness to others, create new traditions or participate in activities that make you happy. You can manage emotions in other ways such as engaging in self-care activities like exercise, routine sleeping patterns and eating balanced meals. Forget perfection and set realistic expectations for yourself and others. Stick with a daily routine and try not to overindulge and abandon healthy habits. Lastly, seek professional help if you are finding it difficult to cope.

At The Therapy Centre, located in Oakville and Hamilton, we have various psychologists and clinicians that can work with you on these issues, including grief and loss, stress management, anxiety and depression.

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Other helpful links:

Useful apps for fear, anxiety, relaxation and more
Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)