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Stress Less This Season


Article by Angela Schaack

Photography by Angela Schaack

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Honestly, I wasn’t planning on writing about holiday stress.  It seemed to me that this topic was already well covered by numerous others.  My assumption was that people may even be tired of hearing about ways to avoid, manage, or recover from the stresses of the holiday season. It appears that my assumption may be wrong, which often is the case when you assume something without checking it out first.  

As I was scrolling through the emails, I ran across a virtual workshop offering.  It was titled “Managing Stress During the Holidays”.   What was illuminating was the number of attendees registered for the virtual session - 1,605 people had registered.  Clearly, holiday stress continues to be a topic of interest!

So,  I decided to sign up for the managing stress session to find out more about what is on the minds of people this holiday season.  And, picking up a few tips for myself seemed like a good idea.  

First, let me say that I was expecting the customary “10 things to do” list of ways to combat holiday stress.  While these lists often have useful information,  it may not offer many new strategies for those still searching for ideas.  In this session, the speaker Tara Schuster shared her own struggles with self-worth that for many years contributed to a cycle of stress and unhealthy coping mechanisms.  Schuster’s strategies for dealing with stress goes well beyond what to do for the holiday season.  While she is not a therapist, her methods seem therapeutic. 

Essentially, the message focused on self-care.  This is a concept we’ve heard more about in the past few years with the stress of the pandemic.  Whether the stress of the holidays is rooted in dysfunctional family relationships, lack of self-worth, being overworked, or feeling overwhelmed, these strategies may be just what is needed to take care of yourself during the holiday season and any other time of the year.  Taking care of yourself is not just a day at the spa.  Self-care involves healing practices that you do regularly.  Here are some ways Schuster suggested to “heal your soul”, as she refers to, in order to maintain your wellbeing.

  • Take an emotional inventory of how you feel when you think about the holidays. 
  • Make a list of helpful things you already know to do when you feel stressed.
  • Honor thy self.  Protect the time you need to downshift and prioritize your wellbeing.
  • YOU decide which events to attend and how long you’re comfortable staying.
  • If you feel like you prefer to be alone, be honest with yourself about whether it’s a healing time or if it’s isolation due to possible depression. 
  • Identify a support person to call if you need to check in. You can set up a code word ahead of time with the support person to help communicate how you’re feeling.  
  • Pause and plan for how you can manage stressful situations. The key word is PLAN!
  • Deflect negative comments by changing the topic of the conversation, or ask a trusted friend or family member to help you deflect if you need an ally.
  • If you’re not able to spend time with family, explore other friendships and partnerships to connect with during the holiday season.
  • Use breathing techniques and meditation to remain centered and grounded.
  • Journaling daily is an effective way to be more aware of your feelings.
  • As part of journaling, you can include a gratitude list of at least five things. It is healing  to be able to feel grateful while continuing to work through challenging situations. 

To sum it up, Schuster reminds us to find joy by paying attention to the small things that happen each day and savoring those moments.  This is not a unique idea, but it’s worthy of repeating.  Ultimately, creating more joyful moments in your life will result in less space for stress.

By Angela Schaack, LCSW

Founder of Way to Wellness, LLC

Source:  - Tara Schuster is an accomplished entertainment executive turned mental health advocate and best-selling author.  

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