Stress Management Practices for the Holidays
Studies by the National Institute of Health and the Kaiser Family Foundation indicate that COVID 19 is causing an increase in the number of people identifying mental health concerns. When your stress load goes up you must balance it out by adding more coping skills. Try deep breathing. Deep breathing can relax your nervous system. Draw in a breath for the count of four and let it out for a count of four. Focus only on your breath and let all other thoughts go. Focus on your breath from one to several minutes letting go any disruptive thoughts and feelings. This is a simple way to begin a stress management practice.
One intervention is to limit how much news you take in. Try identifying a few news sources you trust and stick with those networks. Set a daily time limit for reading, watching, and listening to news. Replace part of your news watching with reading and listening to a book. Instead of watching the news work on a project you've wanted to get done for a while. It will get your thoughts off of your stressors and give your mind space to breathe.
When your stress level goes up, you need to add coping skills. Remember, laughter is a good medicine for stress. Physiologically it reverses your stress response and brings healing forces, so make a specific time to watch your favorite comedy, have an online meeting with friends, and read funny stories together, watch funny YouTube clips, follow funny Twitter feeds or blogs. Intentionally engage in the things that make you laugh. It will positively impact your mind, body, and spirit and reduce your anxiety.
Remember, our physical health affects our mental health. It is often too easy to give into unhealthy habits like overeating, drinking alcohol, or other addictive behaviors when we are under extreme stress. Make sure you are increasing your physical health care during this time. Eat healthy meals and snacks, drink plenty of water, and get enough rest. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol. You and those around will all benefit.
This week is a week where many of us are celebrating holidays or holy days, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza are on many of our minds. Rather than allowing these special days to become stressful by focusing on planning and getting tasks done, focus on the relationships and deeper the meaning of each celebration. The deeper message in all of these holidays can give us hope and strengthen our resilience. Allow them to enrich your faith while you treasure the people in your life whom you love.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCC-S, Executive Director, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center