Reduce Stress…

And Try To Enjoy The Holiday Season!

by Robert H. Phillips, Ph.D.

For those people who enjoy the holidays, it’s amazing to think that there are people out there who dread them, wish they were over, and get more depressed and stressed during this period. But it’s true!

Holiday time can be upsetting and stressful for a variety of reasons, not just the typical ones such as buying or wrapping gifts, writing cards, planning, cooking, and coordinating.

Research conducted by the American Institute of Stress suggests that more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related problems each week. During holiday time, people who are having difficulty dealing with stress may find that they’re having an even harder time than usual.

So regardless of what is causing your stress, what should you do? Implement strategies that will help you to better deal with it. In fact, you might benefit by planning for and dealing with the holiday season the same way that you would deal with any unpleasant situation. The goal, of course, is to try to turn what you’re anticipating as an unpleasant situation into a more pleasant, enjoyable time.

Pinpoint Your Stress

The first step is to determine exactly what is stressful for you. Is it specifically related to the holidays (such as buying gifts, attending dreaded family get-togethers, wishing that you were in “a better place” at holiday time, etc.) or is it more that unpleasant problems in your life just seem to be exacerbated by the joy that others seem to be experiencing during holiday time? Make a list of the things that are stressful for you.

Divide And Conquer

Once you have pinpointed the specific things that are bothering you, divide the items into two categories—things you can do something about, and things you can’t. Many people are overwhelmed at first, when they think of the things that are stressful to them. This is especially true when they know they can’t change certain things. But there are techniques that can be used in either case.

In the first category, things that may be able to change, start jotting down specific steps to take to make certain changes. Make your steps as small as possible, since being able to check them off as you accomplish them can be a terrific motivator to continue your efforts. If you’re not sure what steps to take, consider discussing this with the successful, problem-solving people in your life.

In the second category, things that cannot change, you’ll want to work on your thinking.

Recognize that there are probably plenty of people out there who are dealing with the same or similar unchangeable stressors, but are dealing with it better than you are. That doesn’t mean that you should be comparing yourself to them. It does mean that if they can handle it better, so can you! So this is the first step in changing your thinking, keeping your mind open to improving your outlook.

Your attitude can make a big difference. Ask yourself why you are allowing yourself to be as upset as you are about a particular situation. Ask yourself how long you’re going to allow yourself to feel this way. Ask yourself what other, more positive, constructive ways you can look at your given situation. Think of what others might say if they encountered the same kind of negative thinking.

Additional Stress Relievers

As you work on this, there are other things you can do to improve your overall state of mind. For example, eat properly (although this may be difficult with all those holiday parties!), get enough exercise, and cut back on bad habits (such as smoking or drinking), are great ways to start. (They can also set up your upcoming New Year’s resolutions- ones you’re going to make work this year, right???)

You know what you should be doing in each of these areas. As with the above stress-relieving strategies, jot down small, easily-achievable goals and do what you can to accomplish them.

In addition, keep these common-sense pointers in mind:

  • Work to develop and maintain a more positive mental attitude.
  • Use relaxation techniques regularly.
  • Get plenty of rest… but to energize you to keep busy, not to “escape”.
  • Minimize worrying, especially about things that are out of your control.
  • Enjoy the presence of your support network- family members and friends who care about you.
  • Schedule time for things you enjoy. This is not a luxury… it’s a necessity.

Finally, if you’re still having trouble dealing with stress on your own, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. Being able to talk to someone, and have someone help you with successful techniques, can make a big difference.

A Holiday Conclusion

Holiday time need not be unpleasant. Given the stress in our world, it makes sense to do what you can to enjoy this time of year as much as possible. Please try to have a happy holiday!

How Can We Help?

Many people from all over the world have benefited from the successful, strategy-packed mental health services offered by The Coping Counselors at the Center for Coping. You can, too!

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