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How to Handle Holiday Stress

For many, the holiday season is a joyous time, but for those going through separation, divorce, the loss of a loved one or conflict, it can be a time of stress and sadness.

Person Stressed Out
Flickr User Casey Serin

“No one has the ideal family, but sometimes around the holidays, for those who are going through tough times, the messages of joy can be overwhelming,” said Dr. Steven Tobias, Director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown. “To have all of these positive messages in your face when you’re not in the holiday mood can worsen a depression or make anxiety or emotional difficulties worse and it’s important to watch out for that.”

It’s also important to know that such feelings are normal.

“Instead of feeling joyful, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s understandable given certain situations and the holiday season may remind you of all that you don’t have or all that you’ve lost,” said Tobias. “But, if it becomes more problematic and if you’re having problem coping, you may want to reach out and get help. If you’re having trouble focusing on your work, if you can’t get through every day tasks, if you become more and more irritable, those could be signs that you need to seek some support. It doesn’t mean it has to be a long-term commitment. You may just need temporary help to get you through the holiday period.”

You can also avoid stress by placing realistic expectations on yourself.

“You can’t do everything. You can’t go to every cookie exchange. You can’t go to every party and you can’t buy everyone a gift,” said Tobias. “It’s ok to say no and to know what your limits are and to not overextend yourself. It’s ok to stay home one night and have a relaxing dinner with your immediate family. It’s important to not get caught up in everything we feel pressured to do.”

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