The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?
By: Ann Cornell, Psy.D.
The leaves are turning, the temperature is dropping, and your thoughts turn to preparing for the upcoming holiday season. This time of year has different meanings for everyone and is generally a time to connect with family and friends to celebrate shared beliefs and values. However, holidays can also be a time of increased stress, financial struggles, unmet expectations and challenging family interactions. Most of us have a few skills to help alleviate holiday stress, but do you know when and how to use them? Below are a list of skills you may want to try to use this holiday season:
- Problem-focused - Find ways to reduce or eliminate your stressors. Take a moment to write down what the most stressful aspects of planning for the holiday are for you and consider alternative ways to manage each situation. For example, rather than driving in heavy traffic to visit relatives, adapt your travel times or develop a plan to make the trip itself as fun as possible. If you find food preparation to be overwhelming consider what foods you can prepare ahead of time. And if the cost of giving is a burden consider less expensive ways to show that you care, such as through acts of service.
- Appraisal-focused - Change the way you think about a stressful event by reshaping the way you view the experience. This helps you challenge assumptions and leads you to see problems, issues or experiences in a different light. This can include looking for the positive aspects of a situation, challenging your thoughts on what the “perfect” holiday looks like, and setting reasonable expectations.
- Emotion-focused - These skills, like a “painter’s tarp,” protect you and help you manage your stress. This is where self-care comes in. You may feel pressured to meet everyone’s needs and it’s important that you take time to get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthfully, and to get the support you need. The holidays may cause you to feel sad or lonely when faced with the absence of loved ones who have passed, or with memories that are difficult to recall. It can be helpful to talk to friends and family about your emotions and to recognize that you are not alone this holiday season.
If you find that the additional stressors that the holiday season can bring are causing anxiety, or significantly affecting your mood, you might want to consider therapy. Behavioral Health Partners (BHP) offers treatment for anxiety and depression, and has a team of mental health professionals who can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression.
Keith Stein |