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By Renee Summers
Telegram Reporter 

Don't Let Holiday Stress Get You Down

 

December 15, 2022

Holiday time is here and with it comes plenty of hustle, bustle-- and stress. "There are multiple reasons why the holidays can be stressful," explains Dr. Shama Faheem, M.D. and Chief Medical Officer at Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN). "It can become overwhelmingto get everything done, to make meals, to find the perfect gift. and also it can be financially burdensome for some individuals and that is an additional source of stress."

Faheem says that while we know several months in advance that holiday time will be arriving, each year the season bring obligations that must be fit into what may already be a tight schedule or financial order. If the previous year brought a change in family dynamics such divorce or a death, that can take a toll on what is expected to otherwise be a cheerful time of year. "The holidays sometime highlight the importance of family or social connections and if you have lost a loved one or if you are alone, that can lead to unhealthy thoughts, negative emotions, or feeling sad or depressed. I think there are many factors that can contribute to holiday stress," says Faheem, adding that stressors such as death, the economy, and even the weather are not things we can control. "Tell yourself that this is something you cannot control but what you can control is your reaction to those things; but if you're noticing that those external factors, if they're significant enough like a death in the family and you need professional help, then you should move forward to that level of support. Sometimes just focusing on the positive things that are going on can be a helpful tool."

Often, negative emotions can be a side effect of increased personal stress yet go unrecognized. Faheem says, "Just acknowledging that any sort of emotion, even anger, is okay. I think what happens next as far as behavior is what you can work on." Sometimes asking yourself why you are reacting the way you do can give clues to just how stressed you may be.

As things become busier with family gathering and holiday parties, Faheem says regular sleep schedules, healthy eating habits, and exercise are usually the first things to fall by the wayside, yet these are the very things we can use to cope with added holiday stress. "Sometimes you lose some of your healthy habits during this time but make sure that you're setting aside time to do things that you like or that work for you whether it's exercise, planning a dinner out, going out in the fresh air for a walk, or, and most importantly, getting a good night's sleep," she says. In addition, simple strategies such as planning ahead, writing down a list tasks on a to-do list, and deciding what to prioritize can help. Faheem adds that adjusting your expectations of what a "perfect" holiday gathering should be can lessen the feeling of trying to make sure everything is perfect and everyone is happy. She says we are often our own harshest critic but focusing on the positive can be a better outlook to have.

Faheem emphasizes that it's not a good idea to seek relief from stress by drinking too much alcohol, eating too much, using recreational drugs or abusing prescription drugs, or by isolating and avoiding friends and family. Rather, make sure to find time for activities you enjoy. If alone time is what you feel you need, seek it out. Spend a quiet hour at your local library. Listen to soothing music. A break from technology can help as well. Research shows that disconnecting from screens in general and social media can help alleviate stress and anxiety.

If you feel reaching out for professional help may be needed, contact your family physician. DWIHN offers a 24/7 help line at 1-800-241-4949. Find more resources at http://www.dwihn.org. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has resources at http://www.michigan.gov/staywell. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also offers a helpline Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 1-800-950-6264. Find more resources at http://www.nami.org.

 

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