The holidays are upon us! What will you do to maintain your health amidst the many added stresses of the season?

It’s a time for celebration but it’s also a very sad and difficult one for some of us–especially those whose lives aren’t filled with the love and joy they hope for. Some of us have lost loved ones this year or are continuing to feel the void of a beloved who died years ago. Depression, anxiety and other psychological symptoms often increase in December. Add to that the weight of financial pressures, navigation of family challenges and all that sugar that suddenly appears everywhere you turn, and you’ve got a recipe for all kinds of mental and physical health problems.

What does stress look like?

Take Time to Slow Down

Most often we hear “stress” used in a negative connotation: “I’m so stressed out getting ready for hosting Thanksgiving at my house. I don’t know if I can get it all done.” While ideally hosting a celebration is a joyful opportunity, here it’s been turned into a problem. It’s become a burden rather than the blessing we’d hope it to be.

Stress comes in many different packages. Even desired life events like marriage, a new job, entry or graduation from college or the birth of a baby, add significant stress to our lives.

How stress impacts our health depends on how we perceive it and how we respond to it.

How do you perceive holiday stress?

Martin Seligman, a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, says that our explanatory style is the critical factor as to whether stress takes us down or becomes an opportunity for personal and relational growth. His ideas are especially helpful when considering the “desired” stressors of the holidays.  Pessimists respond to stress from a stance of helplessness (“How am I ever going to get it all done?”). Optimists respond from a stance of power, choice and capability (“I am excited about hosting! I am going to work diligently and enjoy all the details of preparing a beautiful day to celebrate with family and friends.”)

Those who thrive under pressure maintain three views that minimize the impact of stress: a commitment to staying engaging (reducing isolation and passivity which lead to depression), taking appropriate control of whatever part of the situation can be altered and influenced (reducing helplessness) and seeing stress as a challenge - that even difficulties provide an opportunity for personal and relational growth.

How do you respond to stress?

Make Time to Pray

How we cope with stress factors heavily on its impacts upon health. The holiday season abounds with opportunities to fall into unhealthy coping patterns–especially overeating, drinking too much and neglecting stress reducing commitments to exercise and spiritual practices. Of course smoking or other compulsive substance use or activities are also likely to increase under stress.

Along with behavioral signs, increases in anger, crying, depression, negativity, physical tension, headaches, insomnia, digestive problems–all may indicate you need to increase your support for coping with holiday stress.

Positive Coping Ideas

Be proactive. Begin now to develop a plan for coping with potential holiday stress. Consider experimenting with a few new stress management techniques as part of your plan.  Possibilities include everything from taking a ten minute walk each day to setting boundaries about how many “treats” you’ll eat at a given event.

If you want support on developing your plan for either surviving anticipated grief or thriving through the celebrations, I’m offering a holiday health coaching special from now through December 20th – two individual sessions (phone or in person) plus email or text support between sessions for $225.00. I’d love to support your good health and help you enjoy the blessings as well as cope with your unique set of challenges.