Experts offer tips for dealing with holiday stress

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

3 tips may make the holidays easier, more enjoyable

Along with joy during the holidays, people often experience stress, pressure, sadness and grief for a variety of reasons, causing unwelcome anxiety or depression.

Therapist Valerie Yarmouth, licensed clinical social worker at Mercy Senior Life Solutions in Cassville, offered three tips to make the holidays more meaningful and relaxed.

"No one has to live in the continual discomfort of depression or anxiety," Yarmouth said. "When talking about stress and depression, it is important to emphasize that medication can help. However, therapy is also highly effective to those who are willing to put time and effort into retaining your mind.

"Anxiety and depression negatively skews our perception of reality, requiring assistance to restore balance. If you or a loved one struggle to have a balanced mood or outlook, please don't resist having a private discussion with your doctor or the staff at Senior Life Solutions."

Yarmouth expanded on dealing with stress by providing the following tips:

Avoid Going Beyond Your Means

Families with younger children often feel unnecessary pressure to produce gifts well above their means.

This is a great opportunity to help return to the true meaning of the holidays and provide children with a precious gift, the valuable attitude of gratitude. Families can do this by exchanging Christmas letters that show appreciation for each family member.

For younger children parents may need to invest time to help them form and write these letters but it is well worth the effort. Without gratitude, people will always suffer from never having enough, never being satisfied, and no matter how much money they have, they will never find contentment.

Avoid Doing More Than Needed

Cooking large meals and putting up décor are also common causes of unnecessary stress.

People should know their limits and give themselves permission to just do what the can. Pushing themselves beyond what is reasonable and comfortable will ultimately invoke anxiety. Reminding themselves that these are minor details may be necessary several times throughout the holidays to keep a stable mood.

Another reminder people can focus on is that connecting with and reveling in the love of friends and family is more valuable than perfection.

"More often than not, this will mean compromising your expectations and being flexible to avoid unnecessary conflicts," Yarmouth said. "When it comes to conflict, one can't say much because each situation is so different. All anyone has control over is saying, 'I'm not going to fight with people this holiday because I don't want to.' We can have a truce for ourselves whether others deserve it or not.

"It is not about them, it's about us and how we want to enjoy our holiday. It requires more flexibility and ingenuity, but if we are determined, nothing can ruin our holiday spirit."

Mercy Chaplain Sidney R. Allsbury shared a story as an example of how to keep holiday spirits high:

"It was a simple request, 'Honey, would you go buy a frozen turkey for our Christmas dinner?' 'Sure,' I replied. A man's got to take care of his family and this sure beats hunting one down in the woods. So, you can imagine the pride on my face as I brought the huge, frozen bird into our kitchen, [while we were living in Germany.] Back to the kitchen: 'Sid! That's not a turkey! That's a goose!' Oh, I'm in trouble. Guests coming in a couple of days and my wife has never cooked a goose. Back to town and home with a genuine 'Truthahn.'

"Now, you are thinking, nothing can go wrong. Wrong. Our guests, another American family in Germany, became ill and didn't show up. We were one gloomy little, displaced family. But, we had to ask, what's Christmas all about? Is it only friends, food, and gifts? Is there no greater meaning to the sacred day? What will it take to make your Christmas? Hopefully, it will be an encounter with the reason for the season, the Christ Child."

Coping with Loss of Loved Ones

Losing loved ones is difficult, and the holidays create a lot of triggers for memories.

Embracing these memories and choosing to make them special is a healthy way to accept the inevitable. A person's personal preference on how to share feelings, whether openly or privately, is not as important as allowing the person to express them.

Here are some ways to do this: Make a loved one's favorite holiday dish, share stories, take a moment to sing their favorite Christmas carol, light a candle for each loved one who has passed, finish a conversation with them in a private setting, make a charitable donation in the loved one's memory, or revisit photos of the loved one.

Finally, Yarmouth suggested finding solace in a poem.

"The poem, 'Death is Nothing at All,' is special to me personally," she said. "I feel that we continue to love and carry our loved ones with us. They still can influence our choices and thoughts long after they depart from their physical bodies. I hope personally to meet my loved ones again continuing an unbroken relationship.

"I do not want people to think I am advocating for the loved one to dictate their decisions; only that a spiritual connection will remain."

Death is Nothing at All

Death is nothing at all

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other

That we are still

Call me by my old familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way you always used

Put no difference into your tone

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed

At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was

Let it be spoken without effort

Without the ghost of a shadow in it

Life means all that it ever meant

It is the same as it ever was

There is absolute unbroken continuity

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind

Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you for an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner

All is well.

Nothing is past; nothing is lost

One brief moment and all will be as it was before

How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

- Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul's Cathedral

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