The holiday season can be full of joyful bustle, with shopping, baking, hosting company and a longer to-do list. Though for some, the extra activity can lead them to feel stressed and drained, especially if they have had a recent change in their life's circumstances or are already coping with mental health concerns.
Krista Brittain, psychologist for Trinity Health, has offered information to the public on coping with holiday stress.
"As the song goes, certainly the holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year," Brittain said. "But they can also be the most stressful time of the year, too."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Krista Brittain, psychologist for Trinity Health, explained how to combat holiday stress. Brittain has made presentations to community groups and for Trinity’s “Healthy U” lecture series.
"Stress can come from depression, anxiety, conflict in families, or dealing with grief and loss," she said.
Brittain said extra holiday stressors can include everything from weather and travel worries, to family or relationship problems, to financial or physical difficulties. She added that while stresses may drain some of the enjoyment from the holidays, each individual can choose how they want their holiday season to go by responding to the different stressors in a healthy way.
"We like to use the acronym TBA, or 'to be announced,'" she said "The T standing for take care of yourself, the B standing for be realistic, and the A standing for ask for help."
Take care of yourself
People who are feeling stressed about the season should take time to take care of themselves to ease some of the stress burden.
"The No. 1 way to cope with stress is by taking care of yourself -- eating appropriately, getting enough rest and setting your boundaries," Brittain said.
"Sometimes saying 'no' to an activity or a request can be really important," she said. "Knowing your own health, your own body and your own limitations can be really helpful."
Self-care can be different for each individual, Brittain said, with self-care activities including exercise, having quiet time to oneself, or reaching out to supportive individuals such as family, friends, clergy or mental health professionals. Self-care can also involve setting clear boundaries in situations where friction may be a possibility.
"If family relationships are a concern, it can be the most difficult during the holidays," Brittain said. "It's important to lay some ground rules in advance on how families are going to treat each other, and minimize substance use."
When a person's life circumstances change, having realistic expectations for the holidays can also be helpful -- not all holiday seasons have to be the same as they were in years before, and they may be celebrated in different ways.
"Many things may have changed in people's lives," Brittain said. "People should do an assessment of where they are in their life at this point, and how things have changed since last year. They may have experienced losses, or have moved locations and are away from family."
"The circumstances can change from year to year, and people should stay in tune with how they're feeling, and adjust their expectations accordingly," she said.
Ask for help
People should be willing to ask for help if overwhelmed by stress. Often, asking others to help and delegating tasks can ease some of the burden off the host of a celebration, Brittain said.
Some warning signs of too much stress shouldn't be ignored, and people should seek help from mental health professionals to help get through it.
"You should seek help if you are having trouble making it through your day, or if you are experiencing anxiety, tearfulness, or anger," Brittain said. "You should seek help if you don't feel like yourself, if you're more upset or on edge than usual, and especially contact help right away if you are having thoughts of death or suicide."
Staying stress-free during the holidays has become a popular topic, one that Brittain has been willing to share with local organizations and during a talk for Trinity Health's "Healthy U" series. She hopes that by sharing the information, people are able to learn some coping strategies and are able to have a happier holiday season.
"I've had a number of requests for the presentation, and I like going out and sharing the information," she said. "I think it's important to share education in the community."