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Stress Triggers and Tips to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

Our guest this week for the WBNL Coach Show on Blab was my sister Loreen who is a mental health counselor in Tampa, FL.  Loreen specializes in trauma, anxiety, and adjustment to illness.  She is a Certified Master Practitioner of Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) which is a trauma focused intervention.  Loreen also uses a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) approach in her practice.

Visit her website to find out more: Wesley Chapel Counseling 


5 Ways We Get Overwhelmed During the Holidays and What To Do About It

Holidays of course can be joyful and a lot of fun but sometimes they also can bring up feelings of stress and being overwhelmed. Here are 5 common sources of stress and reasons for feeling overwhelmed during the holidays and suggestions about what to do about it.

Grief – Most of us have lost a family member or friend who we are going to miss at holiday gatherings. It’s natural to feel sad about no longer having this loved one with us to share in the festivities. So, of course, let yourself miss them – you love them, but also choose to celebrate them during this time. Maybe start a new tradition like always including their favorite side dish as part of the holiday meal; see if someone can make that “famous potato salad” mom always made – it’s a way of honoring that loved one and keeping them a part of the holidays. Also, share funny stories and great memories of the loved one; don’t be afraid that it will create sadness, it usually lifts everyone’s spirit instead.

Loneliness – Some people cannot be with family and friends at the holidays either because they live a great distance away, they may be in the military, or they may have no family members left. The key to not drowning in loneliness is to make an effort to connect with other people in some way. And it can be simple – go check on a neighbor who may also be lonely, bring them a pie! Or go help with the holiday activities at a local nursing home; believe me, there are lots of lonely people there that could use the company. You’ll feel better and so will they.

Family Dynamics – A lot of us have strained relationships within the family, let’s face it, some are down right dysfunctional. But the holiday is no time to try to hash out these problems and potentially end up with a crisis. Instead, go to your family gathering with a mindset of “shelving differences and issues” for the time being. Practice acceptance for where each of us may be on our journey.  You can probably do that for the few days you will all be together. Use this opportunity to create good memories of family time together.

Expecting Perfection – Adopt the mantra “Good enough is good enough” and enjoy your holiday. Many of us put a great deal of pressure on ourselves that “everything must be perfect” – the immaculate house, all dinner preparations done to perfection! It’s really okay if something gets a bit overcooked or you remember the cranberry sauce is still in the fridge when everyone is almost done eating. Everyone else is probably not expecting everything to be perfect and wouldn’t think it’s a big deal. Also, ask for help if you are the one handling most of the holiday event responsibilities. And don’t forget that it’s really okay if you cook a turkey but decide just to purchase a precooked ham instead of preparing that too. “Good enough is good enough.”

Ditching your Healthy Habits – (hopefully you have some), If you usually meditate, take walks, eat normal portions of food, and only drink in moderate amounts … don’t abandon these wellness habits during the holidays. These ways of being probably help keep you stay centered and better able to handle stress. If you are gathering with family for a few days, find time to go take a 15 minute walk and maybe take someone with you to chat with. Find a quiet, comfy corner somewhere in the house and steal away 10 minutes to yourself to do that meditation. You’ll see that keeping as close as possible to your healthy ways makes a positive impact on coping with holiday stress.

Holidays are great opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends and form lasting positive memories. And although holiday seasons can also create some stress and the potential to feel overwhelmed, you can also limit this by the choosing some of these wellness strategies.

Happy Holidays!

Loreen O'Brien

Therapist | PTSD & Anxiety Specialist

Wesley Chapel Counseling
Tampa, Florida