The winter holidays can be filled with family fun, parties and laughter. At the same time, the busy holiday schedule, along with family expectations, can create tension and stress. Jan Johnson, a psychologist at CU-Boulder's office of Counseling and Psychological Services, offers some tips on how to deal with holiday stress.
Dec. 1, 2011
The winter holidays can be filled with family fun, parties and laughter. At the same time, the busy holiday schedule, along with family expectations, can create tension and stress.
Any one of a number of factors can contribute to holiday stress, says Jan Johnson, a psychologist at CU-Boulder’s office of Counseling and Psychological Services. Her advice for people who have experienced stress in the past is to think of positive alternatives to deal with their anxieties.
CUT 1 “If you know in the past that you have had some kind of reaction to the holidays and it’s been stressful, to really try something a little bit differently this year and to do something that you feel like is going to be really positive for you. (:18) Look at what your needs are around the holidays rather than trying to please everyone in your family.” (:24)
Another stress trigger point is dealing with family issues, says Johnson. She says living up to family expectations, especially if they bring up painful memories, can leave one feeling anxious and even angry. Johnson says people need to be realistic about their expectations during the holidays.
CUT 2 "Be very realistic about your family. I think most of us, having spent numerous years around our family members, we really know what to expect. (:12) We know what our family members are like. Just because it's a certain time of year doesn't mean that they will act any differently or be any different with us." (:23)
Excessive behavior during the holidays is another cause of stress for many people, says Johnson. Spending too much money on gifts or eating too much food or drinking too much alcohol causes anxiety for many people, says Johnson.
CUT 3 "Try to act in moderation around everything, around your spending, around your consumption of food and alcohol, (:12) and know that if your are excessive in those areas it's going to bring on additional stress." (:21)
Thanksgiving through the New Year is the most stressful time of the year to travel, according to Johnson. Her advice is if you decide to travel then keep your options open.
CUT 4 "Try to figure out while I’m there what are some of the kinds of things you can do that will be kind of stress reducing. (:07) Do I have some close friends or a good support group there in the town where I can spend time with people who have a really positive impact on me? (:22) Is there a health club where maybe you can go get some exercise? (:31) Are there some options or alternatives there where I can do something else where I know I can go do this and it will help reduce my stress." (:37)
If the holidays are stressing you out you are not alone, according to Johnson. She says December is one of the busiest times of the year in the mental health field. To help keep those holiday blues away Johnson says to know your limits and schedule time for yourself.