Tis’ The Season: Tips for Managing Holiday Triggers

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Thanksgiving is officially upon us. For many people in the United States, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. While some feel excitement about the upcoming holidays, others may feel an underlying sense of stress, concern, and/or anxiety. These feelings are often related to financial strain, hosting parties, grief, political discourse at family gatherings, the pressure of seeing immediate and extended family, greater demands around social functions, and more.

Why Holidays Trigger Depression or “The Holiday Blues” | Baylor Scott & White Health

While it is normal to experience these feelings throughout the holiday season, too much of them can result in a negative outcome. We know that stress leads to anger, resentment, frustration, outbursts, and more. So, how do you effectively manage these feelings in order to stay in control of your anger, stress, and emotions over the holiday season? Here are some tips to help you conquer the upcoming holiday season:

Listen to your Body Cues

Your body often will give you the first indication that you are stressed, overwhelmed, or angry. This is through the use of physical cues, or symptoms you may feel. Common physical cues for stress, anger, and anxiety include:

Body Cues: Physical Health Indicators 
Sweaty Palms, Shaking Hands and Limbs, Tense Muscles, Stomachache, Neck Tension, Headache, Hair Loss, Increased Saliva, Nausea, Vomiting, Difficulty Breathing, Rapid Breathing, Increased Heart Rate, Unclear Vision, Fatigue 

It is common to ignore the messages your body gives you about what you are feeling. This is because we have been socially conditioned to “push through it” or “ignore it.” During the holiday season, try to do a quick check in with your self 1-3 times a day. Ask yourself the following questions: 

Am I feeling tired or run-down? Do I have pain in a place that is uncommon for me? Does my stomach hurt? Are my hands or limbs shakier than usual? Am I having trouble seeing, breathing, or controlling my heart rate?

Barring any medical issues that may be the cause of these symptoms, you may realize these cues are related to your stress. If you answer yes to any of these questions, be mindful to take some time to de-stress and do something to help you relax. It will help you to remain calm and minimize stress throughout the holiday season.

8 Important Signs That Your Body Is Very Stressed | Bestie

Avoid Perfectionism

Taking part in holiday celebrations can create a lot of pressure for you to be perfect. You may feel pressure to set the perfect table, cook an incredible meal, give the most thoughtful present, or look perfect for your looming family photo. Try to challenge the idea of being perfect, and instead replace those feelings with self-love and acceptance. Relieve some pressure by telling yourself that while you can’t be perfect, you will do the best you can. Doing your best is both appreciated and enough.

Why Brené Brown Says Perfectionism Is a 20-Ton Shield | Oprah’s Lifeclass | Oprah Winfrey Network

Communicate your Feelings and Needs

Being unable to identify/communicate your feelings and needs is a major trigger for anger in many people. Communicating your feelings and needs during the holiday season is an important factor in staying balanced, setting boundaries, and taking care of yourself. Take some time before the holiday season to identify any pressure that is creating negative feelings. Then, think about what you need to help yourself maintain control. Are you feeling overwhelmed by too many holiday events? Identify this and then pick the ones that are most important to you. Is seeing certain members of your family unhealthy for you? If so, set a boundary and communicate this assertively and respectfully. Do you need time and space to rest? Communicate this and take the time to avoid burnout. Is the political conversation over dinner making you angry? Communicate this by stating how you feel and asking to change the conversation. If that doesn’t work, remove yourself from the conversation and take a break. Being aware of your feelings and knowing how to communicate your needs are is one of the best ways you can remain balanced during the holiday season.

How to Communicate More Effectively: Share your needs | Amy Castro

Prioritize Yourself

The holiday season can be a fun and happy time for many. However, it can also throw you off balance by changing your schedule, interfere with your routines, and creating stress within relationships. It is important to be aware of the things you do to regularly take care of yourself and to commit to sticking with these habits. Some routines to continue include exercising, healthy and balanced eating, taking breaks or time for self-care, attending anger management or counseling sessions, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. Remember that moving away from your healthy habits will put you at risk for outbursts, anxiety, stress, health issues, and anger/rage.

We hope that these tips will prove helpful to you in the holiday season. As always, thank you for reading!

References

Castro, Amy. (2017, July 16). How to Communicate More Effectively: Share your needs. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Gv9rllzQZI

Baylor Scott & White Health. (2009, December 16). Why Holidays Trigger Depression or “The Holiday Blues” [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrX1Q1OB3fc

Bestie. (2018, August 13). 8 Important Signs That Your Body Is Very Stressed. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc4ZN1k_rAs

Oprah Winfrey Network. (2013, October 6). Why Brené Brown Says Perfectionism Is a 20-Ton Shield. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7yYFHyvweE

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