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Holiday Stress, Depression and Anxiety: 8 Tips on How to Avoid Becoming Over-Stressed This Holiday S

Counseling for women in Grand Rapids, MI

Believe it or not, the holiday season is upon us! The holidays can be a time of joy and excitement but can also be a time of high stress for many. People often sense a tremendous amount of pressure with increased busy schedules and changes in normal routines. The holidays can also spark emotional triggers for people struggling with a variety of difficult life events, including the recent loss of a loved one, not having or being near support systems, major changes in the family system such as divorce or the loss of steady income. Additional common stressors include anxiety regarding travel, pressure of giving gifts, maintaining a healthy diet, increasing debt, and worry about children's responses to the changing routine. Research suggests (Greenberg and Berktold/American Psychological Association, 2006) that many people are inclined to feel their stress levels increase and women tend to be more susceptible to experiencing this stress vs. men as they may experience an increase in responsibilities during the season (shopping, cooking, cleaning/prepping the home for gatherings).

There is no doubt that increased stress plays a major role in physical and mental health as well as day to day functioning. Though each person may experience and manage stressors differently, there are known tools that have been developed to help reduce tension when used consistently. Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress, anxiety and depression that can occur during the holiday season.

Tips to Reduce Stress, Anxiety and Depression-

1.) Identify the Roots of Your Stress/Acknowledge Your Feelings-

What are the factors that impact your stress? Do your best to be proactive and do what you can to address those concerns. Explore ways to reduce spending by making creative gifts. Take time to allow yourself breaks (even 10-15 minutes can help) to let out your emotions. Think of ways to set aside conflict for a period of time in stressful relationships.

2.) Reach Out/Be with Others Who Support You-

If you feel alone or isolated, seek time in the community, i.e. religious or community events, volunteering. Call a friend and meet for a quick coffee date. Chances are, others may need the break, too! Never underestimate the value of healthy social connections. We are beings made to have relationships with others! View a video on the power of science and connectedness here:

3.) Let Go of Perfection-

I'll say it again, let it go! Easier said than done, but cut yourself a break in making everything perfect. Don't focus on unrealistic expectations of extravagance you see in magazine ads or TV programs. Perfect is boring! Explore ways to simplify, whether it be meal planning (cook ahead of time, go potluck style), wrapping gifts, decorating. Plan ahead/make a list of things you'd like to see happen and break the list down into small, manageable chunks to avoid overwhelm. It's also okay to LET OTHERS HELP YOU! If someone offers to bring dessert, let them! If someone offers to help clean dishes, by all means, say yes!

4.) Take Care of Your Body and ReCharge-

Yeah, yeah. I know. You don't need another reminder to "eat healthy" and this tip is not that. Do some stretches. Listen to calming music. Get outside and be near nature. Read a chapter of a book. Squeeze in a few healthy snack options between holiday meals/treats and remember, everything can be enjoyed in moderation. Try not to forget about how important it is to protect your sleep! We need to charge our batteries and rest allows us the ability to refresh.

5.) It's OK to say NO (thank you)!

We often feel like we have to keep up with every invitation we are given. Saying yes when you need to say no can leave you feeling angry and rushed (no fun). It's okay to politely decline an event, people will understand if you can't travel at the speed of light. It's not possible. Try to bear in mind of little ones if you have them, and their need for quiet time and rest, too! Well rested kids = happier caregivers!

6.) Stay Positive and Live in the Present-

Those who see the glass as half full tend to have an easier time managing stress, thus, allowing themselves to take in more joy. Avoid worrying about later events and try your best to be in the moment. Take in mental "snap shots" of the memories you want to keep and treasure as life is short! Take pictures, remember to smile, keep a gratitude journal of what goes well each day. You will appreciate the review of these moments later in life.

7.) Use Visualization and Deep Breathing Exercises-

When you need a quick and easy tool to help reduce stress in the moment, visualization and deep breathing tools are easily available, no matter where you are. These tools are also greatly beneficial to incorporate into your daily routine for ongoing stress reduction:

Visualization: Find a quiet place, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and in your mind, concentrate on a soothing scene. It may be an image of your favorite vacation spot, a nature scene or even a place that brings you feelings of safety, i.e. your bedroom. Picture yourself present in this scene for a few moments to allow your brain and body a break.

Deep Breathing: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: 6 to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day.

8.) Know When It's Time for More Help-

If you are finding that despite all that you've tried, you are still experiencing ongoing stress without relief, it may be time to seek professional support. Sometimes we need non-bias guidance in a space that's separate from our social circles to feel safe. Please feel free to visit our website at: to learn more about how counseling services may benefit you. We are currently accepting new clients and would love to hear your story!

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