Thursday, November 19, 2015

Creating a Plan for Coping with Holiday Stress

For a great many people, the falling leaves and cooler temperatures are a sure sign that the holidays are on the way.   This time of year can be marked by a great deal of stress and depression for a great many people, no matter holidays you celebrate.  Whether it’s because of the added pressures of entertaining, the financial prospect of gift-giving, or the missing of family members that are not around, these holiday months can carry a great deal of negative emotions for many of us.  Add to that the darkening skies and shorter days, and it’s no wonder that many people dread this time of year.  It’s important to remember, however, that we are not victims to this feeling and we do have control over how we feel this season.  Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind as you try to reduce your holiday stress and depression.

First off, it’s important to remember that many of the stressors that we experience around the holidays are self-induced.  There is a lot of pressure for many people to make this “the best holiday ever”.  It’s a message that is fed to us starting November 1st when all the television commercials tell us all the things we need to make the most of our holiday.  This often leads to feeling that we need to have the best gifts, the tastiest meals, the cleanest home, and the perfect holiday.  Not only does this cause a great deal financial stress, but striving to make something “perfect” can lead us to feel negative when we don’t meet our unrealistic expectations.  It’s important to appropriately prioritize your holiday goals and ensure they are goals that can be reasonable met.  Keep your holiday expectations realistic!  If you’re holiday goals are met, then you had just the holiday you wanted and if they go beyond your expectations then it’s a bonus!

The financial factors of the holiday season are often the most stressful for individuals and families.  Gift-giving has become our way of showing those around us how much we love and appreciate them.  Unfortunately for many of us, we simply don’t have enough to give all that we want.  When we push our finances beyond their limit, it causes a great deal of stress and fear for the future.  The best way to ensure that this doesn't happen this year is to set a firm and comfortable budget- and stick to it!  Find ways to reduce your budget by making thoughtful gifts for your friends and family.  Websites like Pinterest are full of ideas on how to create wonderful gifts from your home.  When in doubt, consider whether a gift is going to do more positives for the recipient than harm and stress to the giver.

This time of year is also the perfect time to practice and recall the stress management techniques that you've used in the past. No matter how busy we get around the holidays, it’s important to remember to take time out for our own mental health.  Meditating, doing yoga, or practicing guided imagery techniques are just a few ways that we can take a couple of minutes to press the reset button on our day and relax.  If those activities aren't your style of relaxing, then find one that works for you.  No matter what the activity, it’s important to spend at least 30 minutes a day taking time to relax and reboot.

Finally, one of the reasons that some people get depressed around the holidays has to do with the loved ones that are not around.  Whatever the reason that they are not with you, the most important thing to focus on is those loved ones who are present in your life.  Focus your time and energy on appreciating the positive times you have with the friends and family that you interact with this holiday season.  Try to frame your mind in positive thoughts, and let memories from previous holidays be a happy photo album and not a depressing slideshow.  If your depressed feelings become too strong or you’re not sure if you will be able to deal with them, then don’t hesitate to contact a professional counselor or someone else who can help you cope with your emotions.

We have the power to decide what kind of holiday season we want to have.  We can choose to be stressed, overwhelmed, and disappointed or we can choose to joyful, relaxed, and fulfilled.  This year, make the conscious decision to avoid the ghosts of holidays past and take control of mood.

Happy Holidays!

William Knor, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Choosing Values to Reduce Stress

There are always situations in which there are many potential responses. Often times, one may be uncertain how best to proceed, uncertain which response will deliver the most desirable outcome.  Sometimes we evaluate a situation based on what we would like to achieve, or how we would like to feel about ourselves. Othertimes, we may choose a response based on how it will affect the other person.  The complexity of this process can be overwhelming. Often times, we make our choice without much thought or awareness. Yet other times, we are so painfully aware, that we may become paralyzed by the options.  

I was recently in such a situation.  I was on a flight during which I accidentally saw that the person next to me was texting to one of her contacts. I was not intentionally snooping or trying to eavesdrop. But what I saw made my heart fall. This seatmate of mine was using hurtful, negative language to discuss her displeasure of sitting next to me. In fact, it was not my actions that incited her words, rather it was my figure that she found displeasing.  I was hurt by her words and struggled to decide how to respond.

I had many thoughts as to how I should respond. I thought about leaning over and informing her that I could see her screen, unsure whether I should comment on the content I was able to see. I thought about loudly telling my travel partner what I had just read. I even thought about using negative, hurtful language towards her, acknowledging her hurtful words and the anger which they had stirred inside of me. 

In the end, I chose kindness. I did not address the woman about the words that I accidentally read on her screen.  I am not certain that this absence of a response was the correct response, and at times, I wonder whether I should have done something differently. However, at this point in time, it is a moot point. The time to act has passed. I cannot go back and change my response.  However, I am content with my choice. I did not respond with anger, although I certainly felt angry. I did not respond with unkind words, which would have not done anything to improve the situation or world. I did not seek to make this person feel bad, as she made me feel.

I choose to respond with kindness, as I chose to define it in that moment.  I responded using my values of treating others kindly and to do no harm. My definition of kindness here may differ from others, and may even differ from my own definition on another occasions, but this is the definition on which I based my response.  I was not certain of the best way to change the situation for the better, to educate this person about the ramification of their actions. I did know that I did not want to cause pain, embarrassment, or shame for this person. I have experienced those emotions and did not want to be the cause of those feelings for someone else. With all the options available to me, I chose what would not bring shame to myself. I chose to be kind and not to potentially create feelings of shame and embarrassment to this woman.  

Karen Rosian, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist