How to Stay Stress-free This Holiday Season by Dave Hughes

Well, they’re here again.  And while they may represent different beliefs and mean different things for each of us, they tend to bring with them visits from relatives, turkey-induced tryptophan comas, gift shopping, work parties, traveling, cooking, school plays and events, breaking a budget or two, and oh yeah: stress.  Let’s face it, the holidays can be tough.  Let’s talk about how to take care of yourself during this busy festive season.

Own where you’re at

There can be a lot of social pressure on us to embody some sort of Hallmark picturesque image of 24/7 joy and cheer this time of year.  This is especially true when we can scroll through pictures and updates from the best 5% of everyone else’s life on our phones and compare it to the messy (aka normal) 100% of ours.  There seems to be an unspoken message that that 5% is what we should be experiencing all the time.  For many of us though, this season can be marked with feelings of depression, anxiety, grief, or any number of difficult emotions and you know what?  That’s OK.  Take some time out each day and have an honest check-in with yourself.  Ask yourself: where am I at right now?  What am I feeling?  Allow it to stand in stark rebellion to what our social media feeds and televisions tell us we should be feeling.

Don’t own where you’re not

This time of year, many of us spend time visiting with family members we haven’t seen for a while.  While these relatives may bring us joy or fond memories, they can also bring us baggage that doesn’t belong to us.  That aunt that keeps trying to fit you into the box you don’t belong in?  The sibling who has the answer to all your problems and won’t stop asking you why you’re still single?  The parent who keeps telling you how to parent your own children?  It’s OK to have some healthy boundaries with them.  You don’t have to be aggressive but you don’t have to be a doormat either.  You can be assertive and kind in insisting that people be as respectful of your boundaries as you are with theirs.  And remember, at the end of the day they don’t get the last word on you and how you live.  It’s okay to spend time with people that bring emotional baggage, but wedon’t have to take all that baggage home with us.

Listen (and be kind) to your body

Stress shows up in more than just our emotions or our thoughts; it shows up in our bodies as well.  Notice your sleep and eating patterns, and try to work in some exercise and time outside in nature.  We tend to drag our bodies around all day while our brains are busy trying to fix the past or off making sure our future turns out right.  Take some time to yourself.  Notice what it feels like to take 5 minutes for yourself and unapologetically do nothing with them but enjoy them.

If you’d like more information about CCERC (the Community Counseling, Education, and Research Center) located at the WELL, please contact us at [email protected] or by phone at 919.856.9233 ext. 107. You can also go to our website: go.ncsu.edu/ccerc. Please note that CCERC will be closed for NC State’s winter break from December 13 until January 8th.

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