Identifying the stress

This is the time of year for thankfulness, family, celebrations, presents and joy. A time for warm fuzzy feelings of merriment and Norman Rockwell scenes of joy and contentment. And of course, let’s not forget the excited anticipation of St. Nicholas. However, it is also a time of great stress.

There are three types of stress:  1) Acute Stress – the fight or flight feelings that come over us and is short term. 2) Episodic Stress – an overwhelming feeling that comes from taking on to much. This type of stress lasts longer than acute stress. 3) Chronic Stress – a more subtle, prolonged stress where a person feels they have little or no control.

The source of stress can be either internal or external. Internal stress is stress that comes from within and is fueled by our thoughts and emotions. Internal stress stems from:

  • fear, uncertainty, anxiety and the lack of control.
  • personal goals, expectations, standards and desires
  • perceptions, decisions and phobias
  • perfectionism and personality traits

External stress is stress that comes from an outside source and includes:

  • major life changes, unpredictable events and environmental
  • financial, work, and unemployment
  • relationships, social functions and interactions
  • physical, chemical (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, drugs), pain and disease

It is important to identify the stressors during the holiday season and having a plan of action in place to help cope. Make a list of all the events, activities, decisions, situations, concerns and challenges that are facing you. Make sure you list is detailed.

For example if you are expected to spend the holidays out of town with family, some stressors may include:

  • Traveling during the winter:  Are you driving, flying or taking another form of transportation? Are you comfortable driving in snow or did your loved one always drive? Will you leave your car at the airport or will someone take you and pick you up? Did you have forethought to make reservations? Do you have anxiety about traveling alone or traveling with young children by yourself? Is your car ready for a trip- tires in good condition, oil changed, etc?
  • Expectations:  What is expected of you once you get there? What traditions are you expected to participate in that you may be dreading? How many social events are you expected to attend?
  • Relationships/Social:  Who are dreading to see? What situation would you like to avoid? What conversation will result in pain, anger and heartbreak?
  • Financial:  Can you afford to travel? Can you take the time off of work? Can you afford buying everyone presents?

Once you finish your list, it is time to identify the type of stress and its source. Then decide if you can eliminate the stress, reduce the stress or manage/cope with the stress. Finally, create a plan to help you navigate the holidays. And remember you can opt out and have the holiday you need. Make your plan B and do not allow outside pressure influence you to do anything you are not ready for.

Leave a comment sharing your plan A and plan B for the holidays. And if you have questions on how to handle a situation please ask and as a community we can find options. Remember, you are not alone. I am here to walk along side of you.



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