Stress Awareness Day – How to Manage Holiday Stress
Stress Awareness Day has arrived just in time for the holiday season. National Stress Awareness Day was established to help people how to recognize and manage stress in all aspects of their lives. Unmanaged stress can be the cause of many physical and mental issues.
While the holiday season is full of magic, excitement, and time spent with family and friends, it also carries its own stressors. Dr. Katie Pfeiffer, Camino a Casa Senior Program Manager, says, “It is important to prioritize and manage stress around the holidays to be able to manage all the additional obligations and expectations we put on ourselves in a healthy way, genuinely enjoy the most wonderful time of the year (stress can ruin the holidays), create positive memories, and strengthen relationships (versus causing harm and holiday trauma).”
Causes of stress may include:
- Family Time – Thoughts of spending time with certain family members may cause stress. Many children and youth will also suffer bereavement grief from those they have lost the past year.
- Finances –Feeling pressure to give gifts when it is not financially feasible.
- Exam Season – The holidays often coincide with exam season for children and youth in school.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder – Shorter daylight hours during the fall and winter may cause seasonal depression in children, youth, and adults.
- Travel – Many children, youth, and adults may feel pressure about travel plans.
Symptoms of Stress
With so many stress factors surrounding the holiday season, it is important to recognize the symptoms of stress:
- Feelings of nervousness or anxiety
- The inability to stop or control worrying
- Worrying about a variety of things such as finances, exams
- Inability to relax
- Restlessness, or difficulty sitting still
- Frequently irritable or annoyed
- Fearful that something bad will happen
In addition, parents can look for the following: changes in diet, weight or sleep habits of their youth, signs that their child or teen is withdrawing socially or seems disinterested in activities they previously enjoyed, complaints of aches and pains that don’t subside, persistent thoughts of hopelessness or suicide. If your child or teen has five or more of these symptoms, seems depressed most of the time or has had a loss of interest or pleasure during the same two-week period or longer, it may be time to seek professional help.
Here are some tips to help you and child manage holiday stress:
1) OPEN THE CONVERSATION. Let them know they are not alone. Many teens struggle with stress, anxiety, or general mental, health. Talk to them about the stigma around mental health and make sure they know it’s ok to ask for help and provide them with resources, so they know where to get help if they feel they need it.
- Stay social while on winter break (just because school is on break, does not mean friendships/relationships should be)
- Respond with kindness
- Practice patience
- Practice mindfulness and meditation to stay grounded in the moment
2) ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS. Don’t forget to enjoy the holidays. Your children and teens have worked hard to get where they are, make sure he/she knows how proud you are of their accomplishments.
- Allow them to say no to less important events and avoid drama
- Accept imperfection (they may not do everything to your bar, but they are doing their best)
3) KEEP ACTIVE. Stay active and maintain exercise routines. The holiday season is often a slow period as fall sports have ended and spring sports begin after the New Year, make a conscious effort to stay active.
4) PLAN AHEAD. Sit down with your family and outline the holiday season so your child or teen knows what to expect from school and family events to prioritize time before the holiday break. Make a schedule of obligations and events they have planned/are expected to attend.
5) GIVE TOGETHER. Assure your child or youth that the season of giving does not mean they should be stressed about finding the perfect gift. Help your child or youth find gifts for their loved ones—make it fun! Set a budget so you are fully aware of what you can and cannot manage. (This will help to be clear with your teens when it comes to needs versus wants.)
Don’t lose sight of what counts during this special time of the year. By maintaining healthy boundaries, learning it is ok to say no, and accepting imperfection we can work with our children and youth to reduce stress during the holidays. Although the holiday season may be stressful, it is a season of joy to celebrate our family and friends. With planning and open communication, you can help your children and teens minimize stress during the holiday season.
If you observe signs and symptoms of stress in your child or teen and believe it may be more than holiday stress, call our admissions team today for a free and confidential screening at (805) 366-4000.
Sources; Amended November 1, 2021
Holiday stress: How to cope with the seasonal blues (betterup.com) By Allaya Cooks-Campbell
September 28, 2021