Tag: Holiday Advice

4 tips to make the holidays more healthy and less stressful.

Don’t fall victim to the holiday hustle— Here’s advice to make the holidays more healthy and less stressful.

Francoise Adan, MD, ABIHM, Director, University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network, offers these tips for a healthy holiday season.

Photo by Charlotte Coneybeer

The holidays are meant to be a time of celebration and quality time with family and friends. However, when trying to manage our families and navigate all of the festivities, this season is often a catalyst for a lot of stress and anxiety. Not to mention that many of us let go of the healthy habits we have been fostering all year.

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With the added emotional strain, skipping regular exercise and overloading on food and alcohol makes us even more susceptible to holiday blues. This year, instead of falling victim to the holiday hustle—set the tone you want for this season. Be the change you wish to see and influence those around you to do the same!

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  • Holiday Eating: This season it is not about feeling guilty or “derailing your diet.” Think portion control. Be intentional about eating healthy during non-holiday meals. Try eating a light healthy snack before going to holiday events. This way you will have more control when it is time for the main course, without depriving yourself of your holiday favorites. Moderation is key—but enjoy yourself!
  • Time Management: It’s hard not to feel pulled in too many directions this time of year. With all of the to-do lists and planning ahead, when do you find time to actually absorb the meaning of all of it? This year, be more selective with your priorities and let go of impossible expectations. Simplify holiday traditions and commitments and do not overschedule yourself. Talk to your family about which traditions are most important. Make a list of your holiday commitments and say no to any unnecessary stressors.
  • Holiday Shopping: Just thinking of holiday lines and chaos can elicit feelings of overwhelm. And even if you elect to shop online, it can still be worrisome trying to find the “perfect” gifts for our loved ones. One idea is to take the pressure off by simply asking what they want. However, that sort of takes the fun out of things. Gift cards are always safe, but when possible, giving personalized gifts is a nice touch. Chances are your friends and family are just as wound up during the holidays as you. Let them know you care about their well-being. Think about gifting them relaxation with a massage session or yoga class.
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  • Self-Care: Do not forget to manage your own well-being. Instead of resisting all that comes with the holidays, acknowledge that stress is a healthy reaction to things we perceive as threatening. This season, be intentional about managing your stress so that it does not become detrimental your health and holiday spirit. As you are thinking of making things perfect for everyone else, remember to take time for yourself. Set the tone for the New Year and stop putting off that me-time you always plan to schedule eventually. Take a deep breath—try meditation for the first time or buy yourself a massage when you purchase them for others.  Add at least one gift for yourself on that long list of things to do for everyone else.

 University Hospitals has a digital broadcast studio available for interviews.

About Dr. Adan

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6 ways to overcome the holiday blues

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Charlie Brown might have said it best as he opined to his pal, Linus: “Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”

Yes, the holiday season can foster moments of great joy, but it can also at times be a source of distress.

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Whether you’re worried about purchasing the right mix of decorations to create the perfect atmosphere for a Thanksgiving meal, or finding a way to connect with family members who live on the opposite coast, the holidays can be tricky to navigate.

It’s easy, especially in our increasingly social media-driven world, to “compare and despair,” says Dr. Michelle Paul, psychologist and director of The PRACTICE Mental Health Clinic at UNLV.

“It’s difficult to tear ourselves away from constant messages of what they’re doing and what we’re, in turn, not doing,” Paul said. 

As pumpkin pies bake, and grocery stores line their shelves with peppermint-flavored treats, Paul explained the sources of holiday blues that can sometimes affect us, and shared some practical ways to greet this time of year.

What causes holiday stress?

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There are a number of things about the holidays that can potentially be sources of distress. For each person it’s going to be different, but there are some general themes that we can reliably predict.

  • Loss of a loved one: If someone has lost a loved one, that loss can be made all the more poignant, and experienced more deeply, around the holidays. The holidays generally represent a time where family and friends get together, and enjoy each other’s company, so having lost someone can create distress.
  • Materialism: In our culture, the holidays represent a focus on having gifts and possessions. There is marketing around how the Thanksgiving table ‘should’ be set, and how the holiday decorations inside and outside of our homes ‘should’ appear. However, not everyone has the means to make extra purchases, setting the stage for comparing and judging others or ourselves negatively for ‘failing’ to keep up.
  • Hustle and bustle: Rushing to make sure I have the right groceries, the perfect gift for that someone special, and the best decorations, is magnified during the holidays. It’s difficult to find a balance around celebrating in a way that’s meaningful, and not getting caught up in a long to-do list.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: If your circumstances don’t match the cultural ideal of a Norman Rockwell painting, your mind tends to go to a place of judgment. And with judgment comes shame. You start thinking, ‘What’s wrong with me that I can’t have it the way they do?’

How does social media contribute to holiday stress?

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Social media is supposed to help us connect. But the unintended consequences of social media include increased stress, isolation, and a decreased sense of belonging. It’s had this weird, paradoxical effect of giving us this ongoing, never-ending opportunity to look in the mirror and compare ourselves to others. We’re constantly bombarded through our phones, with young people being particularly vulnerable to the pressures of social media. 

As an adolescent, you’re figuring out who you are and where you fit in. It’s a time when friendships are very important and meaningful, and you begin to build relationships outside of your family. Today, teens are also being asked to manage these social media messages about what is cool and not cool, and you can’t get away from it. You could escape it 40 years ago. You could go home and take a break from whatever drama was going on at school, or what a classmate wore to class and what you didn’t. 

As human beings, we naturally want to find where we feel in, instead of out, where we belong and feel connected. The holidays add another layer of that, with strong messages that circulate around us for months in advance.

What are some tips that can help people cope with these and other holiday stressors?

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  • Determine your values: Step back and think intentionally about what you want the holidays to represent. Who do you want to be in relation to the holidays? What kind of values do you want to connect to? Once you make that determination, you can behave in accordance with those values. 
  • Act on your values: Behaving in ways that are consistent with your values is more important than making comparisons or judgments. Thanksgiving, for example, is all about being thankful for what you have. And there are lots of activities around Thanksgiving that wouldn’t require spending a ton of money. Maybe on that day, you can take a walk in nature in order to contemplate or spend time appreciating what you have. If you’re missing family members, why not do a Friendsgiving? Enjoy food and company and embrace the fact that you’re a ragtag team of people spending time together. Or, go out and volunteer. If you’re feeling that you’re not receiving, why not do the opposite and do some giving?
  • Avoid compare and despair: Have self-compassion. You can compare, but you don’t have to add in the layer of judgment. If someone’s reality is different than yours, that’s OK! Stop “shoulding” all over yourself, and stop using damaging or punishing language. Instead of saying, ‘I should do this,’ or ‘I must do that,’ you could try, ‘I preferably should.’ Be mindful of your own mental chatter and the automatic tendency to go toward punishing language.
  • Make connections: Focus on creating space for belonging or acceptance. Find places where you can receive support, but also give support in return. Reach out to others. Think about worth, value, and appreciation versus the enemies of comparison, judgment, shaming, blaming, and pushing people away.
  • Take stock: Take an inventory of what your individual sources of stress are because it’s different for everybody. Ask yourself: If I could change one or two things to feel better, what would they be? Do some active problem solving. If you lost a loved one, for example, celebrate that person’s life, or change up what might have been a holiday routine with that person. Make room for it to not be a happy time — it’s OK if it’s not a happy time. 
  • Seek help: If you’re really feeling that you can’t cope with the stressors around you, it’s perfectly reasonable to reach out to others, or even a mental health professional. Sometimes we get muddled in our own brains, and an outside perspective from a trusted mental health practitioner can help provide you with clarity and relief. 
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About The PRACTICE

The PRACTICE is a UNLV mental health clinic that offers counseling and other services to campus and community members. Faculty experts in clinical and school psychology and mental health counseling train and supervise advanced graduate students in high-quality mental and behavioral health care. Faculty and student clinicians work together to provide evidence-based care, drawing upon the most up-to-date research and knowledge available.