The holidays are a fun time of year, filled with parties, celebrations, and social gatherings with family and friends. For many people however, it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety.
Does the Holiday season stress you?
It is interesting to realize one of the most joyful and celebratory seasons of the year can also become one of the most difficult times for some individuals to experience depending on their life circumstances. Some of the symptoms of this kind of sadness include:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Financial hardship
- The inability to be with family and friends
- Reminders of loss and bereavement
I know individuals who are missing loved ones during this season. It is particularly difficult for them if they are experiencing this loss for the first holiday season.
I also have spoken with individuals who have had traumatic experiences at Christmas in their childhood or sometime in their past.
Typical dynamics of stress and how to cope
People can experience the typical dynamics of too much stress resulting from the inability to meet all the demands of the holiday season. The demand of stress can create the symptoms like those above: financial limitations, life-fatigue, and disappointment.
When I think of disappointment, I think of our veterans and those in military service who cannot be with their families.
Regardless of the specific cause, it is important for us to realize the holidays can be a time of intense toxic stress for those around us.
The toxic stress may manifest as some emotions and behaviors reflective of brain states that may limit their capacity to function. They may not be able to think clearly. They may feel extremely depressed. They may have insomnia or other symptoms that reflect depression.
It is important for those individuals to have a place to process their feelings.
They should also be encouraged to do brain regulation work. Breathing, yoga, exercise, music, rocking, playing with their pet, having a safety plan, and other calming sensory activities are helpful as troubled individuals try to manage holiday toxic stress.
It may be during the holiday these activities need to be planned more intentionally and put into one’s regular schedule.
If there are deeper unresolved issues, it may be important to get counseling and/or group support.
It is a priority that we be aware of those around us who are facing their own private world of holiday difficulties.
If we perceive someone is fading into withdrawal, using drugs or alcohol in order to cope, or if we witness changing behavior that seems strange or destructive, we may be witnessing the effects of toxic holiday stress.
If you notice that stress seems to dominate someone’s life, please give them permission to process out loud what they are facing and its impact.
There is always hope and help, and we need to watch for these symptoms and remind those around us that there is always hope.
In fact, isn’t that the very core of our holidays? There is always hope because of God’s great gift of grace, love and salvation to us all!
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside