Stress Management For The Holidays

No, it wasn't your imagination. Christmas candy treats and decorations were already crammed on store shelves the day after Halloween! The big box retailers pushed up Black Friday to 6:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. The television commercials bombard us with images of luxury cars wrapped in giant red ribbons and children playing with the latest electronic gadgets. Don't forget the news coverage of anxious, stressed out people standing in line for those retail 'doorbusters' on Thanksgiving Day.

Needless to say, the holidays can be stressful and sometimes difficult to navigate. On the other hand, the holidays can be joyous and rich in traditions. Some people look forward to them with great anticipation, others might have mixed emotions and joke about just surviving them, while even others might outright dread them. What might your holiday look like if you weren't just trying to get through it?

As a psychotherapist I have often found that the two to three weeks prior to a major holiday and after are high stress for lots of people. They can be fraught with expectations of oneself and others. Some families may be spread across the country and only see each other once a year. A college student may be visiting her parent(s), a soldier may be coming home, a child of divorced parents may have to visit two different households. Let's not forget that other people may be alone. For others, there may be a painful, unresolved childhood memory of a parent always drinking too much and totally spoiling the holiday for them. Holidays can also be an especially bittersweet time when there has been a loss of a loved one.

Stress does not need to be regarded as a feeling to avoid. In fact, it's impossible to avoid. It's quite natural to sometimes experience what psychologists call anticipatory anxiety or stress, where body and mind are preparing for even a positive event, similar to a runner preparing for a marathon. The antidote is to get to know what your stress is about. Determine if it's internal ("I must create the perfect holiday family reunion") or external ("My mother expects me to create the perfect holiday family reunion"). Once you become aware of and identify your particular stressor, you gain back some control. Now you can decide what you need to do in order to help manage and reduce your stress. For example, lower too high expectations about the perfect family gathering; or maybe take a ten minute 'time out' for some restful breathing and quiet away from all the holiday hosting. Make the holiday about how you want it to be with the people you care about.

Cynthia Kessler, Ph.D. has been a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist for the past 25 years. Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance accepted. She has a private psychotherapy practice in the INA Building at 14701 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, OH. She can be contacted at (216)543-1695.

cynthia kessler

Cynthia Kessler, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist with over 25 years experience.  Her private practice is located in the INA Building at 14701 Detroit Ave.  She can be contacted at (216)543-1695.  Some insurance accepted, including Medicare and Medicaid.

Read More on Wellness Watch
Volume 10, Issue 25, Posted 5:13 PM, 12.09.2014