Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a joyous time, but they can also be stressful. Over the next two months, our EVMS experts will share tips to manage the chaos that can come with extended family visits, events, work and travel this time of year. Our first words of advice come from Agatha Parks-Savage, EdD, RN, Assistant Dean of Graduate Medical Education and Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine.

Start with a re-frame

Instead of thinking this is a stressful time of year, try to think of it as an exciting time of year. Remind yourself of the meaning of the holiday season. This easy re-framing can change how you think and feel.

Stop, drop and roll

As children, we are taught to stop, drop and roll if you catch fire. This same principle can be applied when you when need a “time-out” from the holiday activities. Take a break to stop what you are doing, drop yourself on comfy couch and roll with the moment of doing nothing.

Stay clear of the “Debbie-downers”

Misery loves company, but you don’t have to. Expect a few Grinches to exhibit that “bah-humbug” spirit, but instead of giving it back to them, extend kindness.

Clock-in at the holiday work party

Your workplace is hosting the annual holiday party event at a local venue. Or it might even take place at the home of one of your organization’s leaders. It’s open bar, and the music has your toes tapping. You’ve had more cocktails than food, so you decide the kitchen counter is a great place to showcase those fancy dance moves you learned last summer watching re-runs of “Dirty Dancing.” You go back to work, and the water-cooler talk is how your tipsy display made it onto everyone’s Instagram feed. Rule of thumb: Unless the dance moves and overindulgence of alcohol is part of your workplace milieu, remind yourself that you are clocked-in for the holiday work party.

I love my family, but. . .

We choose our friends, and we choose which co-workers get to be our friends outside the workplace. That’s not the case with family members. You are born into this group of people, and regardless of how you might feel about “that” cousin or the “peculiar” in-law, they are yours for keeping. This isn’t always a bad deal. In a healthy family dynamic, they are your source of unconditional acceptance. But why are family issues during such a happy time of year the cause of primary stress for people? That can be an entire article on its own, but let’s just say when it comes to family, pick your battles during the holiday season. 

If you’re still having a hard time despite these tips, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help from a family member or medical professional.