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Handling Stress A Key To A Happy Holiday

Photo via Flickr// Tom Gill

  Stress and depression can wreck both the holidays and your health. But planning ahead and getting support can help avoid such problems. And in the wake of the Paris attacks, there’s a new layer of anxiety. 

Dr. David Josephs, Clinical Director at the Lakeview Center in Pensacola, says there’s a fine line between staying informed on a major story, and not overloading on the information.

“The reason for staying informed obviously, is to see what’s going on,” Josephs said. “The other piece of staying informed – increasingly from many of us – is we’re wondering ‘Can it happen to me? Can it happen in my community?’

Josephs says when dealing with an overload of tragic information, one of the best tips is to engage in healthy behaviors.

“To respond to stressful stimulus, to deal with emergencies, we want to be at our best,” said Josephs. “In order to be at our best, we have to sleep; we have to relax. We have to do things that human beings do, in order to bring all of our talents to bear. If we’re stressed out, we can’t do that.”

Add to that the already hectic period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and its dizzying array of demands – parties, shopping, cooking, and entertaining, among others. While a joyous time for many, for others it could be an emotional minefield.

“We are taken out of our comfort zone, usually in ways that should really be nice – we’re going to spend time with our family,” said Josephs. “But generally, this is our extended family. Extended family and friends have people and things that we tend sometimes not to like. We’re using our down time, our relaxation time, to be in environments that we have less control over.”

If you’re hosting a holiday party, Josephs says try to plan ahead as much as possible, such as planning menus, the shopping list, along with party prep and cleanup. Cover as many details as possible, but be realistic.

Another tip is: acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, Josephs says it's normal to feel sadness and grief and express those emotions.

If you feel lonely or isolated, reach out by seeking community, religious or other social events. Volunteering can also lift spirits. On the financial side, draw up a budget and stick to it instead of going on a shopping binge.

And finally, don’t toss the healthy habits which have seen you through the year up to this point. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Josephs says it’s a matter of discipline.

“You can inoculate yourself for health things, you can [also] inoculate yourself for stressful events, including eating too much food,” said Josephs. “Talk to our partner, your wife about ‘Well, if you see me do this, just give me a little look or give me a nudge.’ It’s OK to have help with that.”

It’s also OK, says the Lakeview Center’s Dr. David Josephs, to seek professional help if you need it, despite your best efforts.