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Navigating Stress During the Holidays


By Steven Groom, Crisis Intervention Overnight Coordinator

Even in the best of times, the holidays can bring on feelings other than joy and happiness.  Stress-related travel, gift giving, and scheduling time with different branches of your family, as well as worry that things won’t be “perfect” can all contribute to a significant amount of anxiety. Every person is impacted differently by the stresses of the holidays and this is complicated further by the challenges unique to this year, such as the recent presidential election and a global pandemic.

How does one navigate the relatively normal stress of the holidays that is complicated by things like a pandemic?  The truth is that there is no single answer to that question.   What works well for one person may not work well (or at all) for another.

A good place to start dealing with any negative emotions you may be having is to give yourself permission to have those feelings in the first place.  It’s very common for us to minimize our own feelings; especially if we think those feelings might burden those close to us.  At this time of year there is a focus on how things are supposed to feel.  It’s “supposed” to be a happy time, not a stressful time, and that focus can cause us to try to conceal those negative kinds of feelings.  By giving oneself permission to have those feelings, you can start to deal with them.

Another helpful practice is to establish good boundaries for yourself and make sure you have time to recover from each event you attend, even ones attended remotely.  Don’t be shy about advocating for yourself for the sake of maintaining the appearance of happiness.  Oftentimes, just having even a ten or twenty minute break can lower stress significantly.

While we all tend to fear being seen as a burden to others, we also tend to want to be there if someone in our life is struggling.  Reaching out for help can be very hard to do.   What has helped me is to think of how I would feel if someone I cared for were having challenging feelings.  Would I want them to conceal that from me?  I would not, and chances are that you wouldn’t, either.  With that in mind, consider reaching out to someone in your life if you are struggling, just as you would have them reach out to you.

If you happen to be a person who isn’t typically stressed out during the holidays, then I would urge you to be open to hearing from those around you.  Chances are that they are experiencing both the highs and lows of the season.  Listening and empathizing with their feelings is one of the best ways to help someone through any crisis.  It helps to remember that you don’t have to solve their problems, you just need to listen. If you do start to feel overwhelmed by the situation, you can always direct them to our services here at CommUnity.

And so to sum up, please remember to give yourself permission for all your feelings, good and bad.  Advocate for yourself and give yourself time to recover from the events you attend, even ones attended remotely. Be open to reaching out to others when you need help, and be open to others reaching out to you.

I hope that each person reading this has a safe and happy holiday season. If you need to talk, know that there is always someone here who will listen.

Call/Text: 1-855-325-4296
Mobile Crisis Dispatch (Johnson & Iowa Counties): 1-855-800-1239
Mobile Crisis Dispatch (Keokuk, Washington, Louisa, & Jefferson Counties): 1-833-854-7613