Holiday stress is very real for most individuals and families. CenterLife Counseling owner, Kim Lundholm-Eades, recommends preparing prevention strategies. “I have seen many clients over my years as a therapist whose experience of holidays is not relaxing; it’s a high-stress time. Preventing holiday stress is much easier than dealing with a major stress related incident after it has escalated to unmanageable levels.” She recommends three ways to keep holiday stress at manageable levels.
- Have realistic expectations about what you and your family can do and tolerate.
- When it comes to holiday spending, set a budget you and your family can agree is manageable for all, and stick to it.
- Line up a safe place to go, if or when things get too intense. Finding a safe place after the situation escalates is much harder. This can be a specific place, a safe person, or a professional who is available to you.
Holiday stress and risks, however, can happen despite your best efforts to prevent it. “Again, there are some very simple ways to help yourself through these difficult times.” The tools you use to manage holiday stress need to be simple and easy to put into practice, even when visiting relatives and friends. “One helpful means,” says Kim, is to simply take a break when things get tense. It may mean taking a walking outside for a few minutes or taking a quiet break alone or with a supportive person. Some of my clients take a break from the tension among the adults at a gathering by playing a game with the kids. Another way of handling a stressful family gathering is to make a deal with a favorite cousin or sister to help each other through a family event. The third way I see some of my clients successfully navigate holiday stressors is to make a list of all the behaviors, foods and relationships that serve you well, and use that to help you maintain those healthy strategies through the holidays. They refer to the list, which can slow you down from defaulting to reactive behaviors that are not helpful.
Some people find the holidays trigger chronic conditions or increase symptoms beyond a manageable level, including depression, anxiety, trauma or a just feeling of being overwhelmed. If existing conditions are triggered or a whole new and incomprehensible experience dominates your holidays, CenterLife Counseling recommends a relationship with a mental health professional, beginning long before it escalates into something that can be serious. “A mental health professional is educated and trained to help with depression, anxiety, trauma and those experiences that you can’t name but are simply overwhelming” according to Kim Lundholm-Eades of CenterLife Counseling.
It is also good to identify what to avoid that might either create holiday stress or escalate it. Triggers to avoid can be certain people, relationship situations, foods, caffeine, alcohol or other drugs, games, TV shows or even some particular relative’s home. Know your triggers for holiday stress and work out which of those triggers you are able to avoid. Similarly, if you know some thing already works in helping you with stress, such as a certain medication from your doctor, keep that healthy and helpful routine or medication regiment going throughout the holiday season.
“Lastly,” said Kim, “if you already know that certain holiday events create stress year after year, go out of your way to do something new.” If you keep repeating the same holiday routine and find it destructive, change the routine.” After all, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is the definition of insanity. With a little planning ahead, you can have simple tools in place to keep the stress and insanity manageable. Have a safe and happy holiday.
Call CenterLife Counseling today to schedule an appointment to find support and relief and enjoy the holidays!
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White Bear Lake, MN
4444 Centerville Road, Suite 235
White Bear Lake, MN 55127
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