Stress Busters

By Beatrice Calvin

My, how time flies. It seems just yesterday we were wondering when the 100 degree days of summer would end. Now, the winter holiday season is upon us. 

Andy Williams croons to us that the holiday season is ‘the most wonderful time of year.’ Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates one in ten U.S. adults report depression. The number of people who actually experience some level of depression is probably higher than the reported number.

The holidays mean different things to different people. For some, it’s a time to be with family and friends (which in itself could be a problem). For others, it becomes a time of loneliness and depression. Whether the holidays hold positive connotations for you or negative ones, it is often a stressful time for many. In order to maintain our physical and emotional well-being, it is imperative that we find ways to handle with the things that tend to cause us to feel stressed.

Here are this month’s tips for managing stress.

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. 
    If you’ve been working all year to eat healthy and control your weight, look out! This time of year it seems everywhere you turn, something or someone is out to sabotage your efforts. You may be invited out to celebrate at happy hours, meals and parties. Foods you would normally not even think about eating become instant temptations. These all make it difficult to stick to diets, eat healthy and maintain desired weight. This is often the time of year when people tend to gain weight. If this happens to you, don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t punish yourself with feelings of guilt—that will make things worse. Just do your best to maintain healthy habits like getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well. But if you do slip up, don’t be too hard on yourself. Tomorrow is another day.
     
  2. Let it go and move forward.
    The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year or the year before that. People and life circumstances change. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. And, if you have a relative that always manages to ‘push your button,’ remember this fact before you get to the family gathering. Prepare yourself emotionally ahead of time so that you can deal with him/her effectively. Set aside differences and disagreements until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something doesn’t go right. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of stress too. 
     
  3. Acknowledge your feelings.
    Whenever someone asks me if I’m feeling stressed, my instant, automatic response is ‘No.’ Subconsciously, it’s as if admitting that I’m feeling stressed means that I don’t have faith. For some people, admitting to feeling stressed implies weakness. To the contrary, being able to acknowledge your feelings shows strength of character and self-understanding. It opens the door for you to effectively manage your stress so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. You don’t have to go around announcing to everyone you meet that you are feeling stressed. If you can admit it to yourself, you’re off to a great start. In addition, denying your feelings could potentially be harmful to your health. Mayo Clinic staff suggests that if you’re in denial, you’re not being realistic about something that’s happening in your life. Denying your true feelings could keep you from seeking support and help that you may need. Acknowledging your feelings may be the first step to finding healthy coping strategies for managing stress. So be honest with yourself. If you’re feeling stressed, at least admit it to yourself. And if you need help dealing with it, consider talking to a non-judgmental friend, pastor, or therapist. Do whatever you need to in order to take care of yourself.

Feel free to send us your tips for reducing stress. Send ideas to libraryworklife@ala.org. Look for more ideas next month as we continue celebrating the holidays.