The Holiday Season is a time of high stress and can sometimes cause incredible anxiety for some individuals.
There are a myriad of reasons why this may be true.
The holidays are filled with financial difficulties, family crises, difficult memories, and just not enough time to get everything done.
It is a time when drug and alcohol use can become extreme and when lots of angry or anxious behavior may become glaringly apparent.
There is no one formula works for every individual.
However, there are some basic ways to help individuals who are struggling to survive the holidays—or even to survive life. We should be aware of what Holiday Season high stress looks like and offer support for those who are feeling incapable of coping with these stressors.
5 ways we can help
- It is important not to assume we know what is stressing someone. We should not in any way make assumptions or judgments. We also should not minimize their emotions as we communicate with them.
We should stay observational so that we can be sensitive to their specific needs or stress triggers.
- We should be in listening mode. That means we are not reassuring, explaining, sharing our own opinions or experiences, solving their dilemma or asking lots of questions…though it feels intuitive that we should be doing these things. (After all, isn’t it helpful to say, “It will all work out!” or, “I remember when I had an experience like that.”)
But in reality, those responses are unhelpful. They are not the first thing someone needs. They need to be heard.
- In order to help someone with high levels of stress, we need to be good active listeners. Rather than trying to convince someone to change, we should help them get clarity on what their stressors are.
We will only get to that information if we take a listening posture. That means we are using active listening statements such as, “It sounds like” or, “I hear you saying” or, “so you are frustrated when…”.
These statements are designed to help them become introspective so they begin to get clarity on what they are feelings, which may explain their stress or behavior.
Often, the stress can be diminished significantly if the person has clarity about what is going on.
- A next step is that we need to help them find ways to regulate their brain state. This means that they are able to move to a place of calm and cognitive thinking which, in turn, uses good logic and is not so reactive to their immediate stressor or fears.
These activities can be very regulating:
- Taking a break
- Conscious breathing
- Squeezing a fidget
- Wrapping in a blanket
- Holding or stroking a pet
- Listening to their favorite music,
- Or just sitting and talking with a friend.
- Finally, if there still is a high level of anxiety (like panic attacks), we should recommend they see a trained counselor. A professional can help them find new options to help the person cope with stress.
Some of the issues may be deeper than a few conversations can resolve. For someone who struggles to manage their stress, getting them to a good therapist may be one of the best suggestions we can make. It may, in fact, be life-changing.
We need to remember that there is always hope. There is always a strategy that can help them cope with the stresses of the holiday or in life.
Having hope is a great beginning.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside