by Mike Arieta
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW-MN)
Note from the Creator of American Millennium Online: Dealing with stress during the holidays can be difficult. Often times we can find our normal stress levels catapulting to unmanageable levels during the holidays. That is why we consulted our friend Mike Arieta, a licensed clinical social worker, to give us some tips on how to eliminate or deal with increased levels of holiday stress. Arieta is the proprietor of New Path Counseling in Apple Valley.
Stress is a common and normal part of everyday life. We experience stress as a result of job, school family, social and other life events. Stress in small amounts for a short period of time can be of some help to us to spur us on to complete tasks and meet goals. When stress is prolonged over a long period of time and continuous, stress can cause major issues mentally and physically. This piece is meant to provide some insight on how to deal with a particularly stressful time of year the holiday season.
The holiday season tends to be a more stressful time then other times of the year assuming that the other times of the year are not filed with major life event stressors. The reason the holidays tend to be a more stressful time of year is due to several factors:
- The demands of entertaining or being involved with many events
- Financial because of all the demands to purchase gifts especially if a person is on a tight budget
- Depression due to the loss of loved ones that would normally share in the holiday events
- Feelings of guilt over saying no to many invitations to events
- Dealing with feelings of anger or hurt over past wrongs committed against us from family
The list above names just a few reasons we would feel more stress around the holiday times. It is important to remember that we experience stress all year long, but the holidays tend to be more stressful because all of the stress we feel during the year tend to build up and the flurry of events that entail the season are all compacted into a very short time. In other words too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Here are some ways to lessen the stress of a very hectic season:
- Learn to understand what your body is telling you. When a person feels stress the body is the indicator of what is going on. Signs such as headaches, upset stomach, clenching teeth and fatigue can all be signs of the body and mind being under stress. Learn to recognize what your body is telling you. These signs may mean you need to back off a bit and take it easy.
- Take time for yourself. This can be easier said than done, but if you make a conscious effort you can take time for yourself. When people fail to do this the holidays can overwhelm them and they may not be able to rest mentally and physically. Make an effort to take breaks in a busy day, remember to breath deep and let it out slow.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, talk with others and let them know how you are feeling. Often talking with other people is very helpful in stress reduction as you may find others who share your issues. You learn that you are not alone in the holiday process.
- Exercise. Along with taking time for you is exercising. Sometimes in the middle of the rush people forget to go for a good walk or take time to stretch. Exercise is a great way to keep yourself fit and reduce stress. exercise can also be done as a fun holiday activity with family and friends after dinner or events.
- Do not feel guilty about setting limits. You know how much you can deal with. Do not let feelings of guilt let you take on more than you can handle. Set some limits and say no if need be. If you do not set some limits on your time, your time will be taken from you and you will not be able to be at your best.
- Understand that you may experience feelings of loss especially if you have lost loved ones that would normally be a part of annual family gatherings. Understand that it is normal to feel sad at times due to the loss and know that it is important to share your thoughts and feelings about this with others.
Please, Please do not be afraid to seek out professional help if needed. So many times people feel guilty or ashamed to seek out professional help at this time of year. Know that it is alright to ask for help and others have done this in the past. Asking for help does not mean you are weak or soft, it is healthy to do this. There are many places to reach out to, crisis hot lines, shelters and hospitals.
It is my hope that in this holiday season you are able to reduce your stress and enjoy time with others. Remember that there is help available for all who need it.
© Mike Arieta 2012