It’s that time of year: 5 self-care tips for navigating holiday stress

snowman-1449142_1280Written by the American Psychological Association

With the holiday season getting underway and the decorations coming out, it is important to remember that the holidays have the potential to create additional challenges. Families are cutting back, people are worrying about job security or unemployment, and seniors are concerned about their retirement. Such worries are stressful, and the American Psychological Association (APA)’s 2011 Stress in America survey found that 22 percent of Americans report an extreme level of stress.

If you are already experiencing stress in other areas of your life, you may be especially vulnerable to increased anxiety during the holidays. However, it is important to view the holidays as an opportunity to enhance your psychological well-being. Remember, there are conscious steps you can take to prevent holiday stress and ensure a worry-free season.

APA offers these tips to help handle holiday stress

  • Take time for yourself — There may be pressure to be everything to everyone. Remember that you’re only one person and can only accomplish certain things. Sometimes self-care is the best thing you can do — others will benefit when you’re stress- free. Go for a long walk, get a massage or take time out to listen to your favorite music or read a new book. All of us need some time to recharge our batteries — by slowing down you will actually have more energy to accomplish your goals.
  • Volunteer — Many charitable organizations are also suffering due to the economic downturn. Find a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter where you and your family can volunteer. Also, participating in a giving tree or an adopt-a-family program, and helping those who are living in true poverty may help you put your own economic struggles in perspective.
  • Have realistic expectations — No Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza or other holiday celebration is perfect. View inevitable missteps as opportunities to demonstrate flexibility and resilience. A lopsided tree or a burned brisket won’t ruin your holiday; rather, it will create a family memory. If your children’s wish list is outside your budget, talk to them about the family’s finances this year and remind them that the holidays aren’t about expensive gifts.
  • Remember what’s important — The barrage of holiday advertising can make you forget what the holiday season is really about. When your holiday expense list is running longer than your monthly budget, scale back and remind yourself that what makes a great celebration is loved ones, not store-bought presents, elaborate decorations or gourmet food.
  • Seek support — Talk about your anxiety with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and work toward a solution for your stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider seeing a professional such as a psychologist to help you manage your holiday stress.

Bottom Line for Mentors and Mentoring Programs

As the articles states, the holiday season is often one that is associated with increased levels of stress for many people. For mentors, who handle both the stress in their own lives while navigating potential issues and stress in the lives of their mentees, this stress can be doubly impactful. For this reason, it is crucial that mentors make time to decompress and unwind when it’s necessary, because the stress that crops up in one aspect of a mentor’s life can negatively impact their relationships and interactions in other areas. This can lead to a self-perpetuating cascade where negative experiences feed into each other. Short-circuiting that cascade before it has a chance to snowball can help ensure a more positive relationship with mentees and pay dividends in other aspects of a mentor’s life.