Healthy Holiday Season: Dealing with Stress

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Many people experience stress at various times throughout their lives. Stress is your body’s response to an outside stimulus that you aren’t prepared for, and it can help you overcome a challenge. However, if it persists for a long period of time, stress can be debilitating, interrupt daily life and lead to physical ailments such as high blood pressure. The holiday season can be especially stressful with family activities, holiday meals and gift-giving. Every life will have ups and downs, stressful and peaceful times, which is why it’s important to learn ways to deal with stress when you experience it.

To relieve some of the stress this holiday season, to relieve some of the stress, remember to do less and enjoy more. When you are feeling overwhelmed, smelling lemon oil and regular exercise - even a walk - can help lift your spirits. Reflexology, the practice of applying pressure to specific areas on the feet, hands and ears, can help you relieve tension and relax.  When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  • Don’t overschedule – There are so many parties and events during the holiday season that it can be overwhelming trying to attend all of them. Choose the activities you can comfortably fit in your schedule and that you’ll enjoy.
  • Learn to say no – Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity.
  • Forget perfection – Even if everything goes according to plan it doesn’t mean the stress will go away. Instead, relax and enjoy the time with family, even if it’s not perfect.
  • Change traditions – If it’ll take some of the pressure away, do something different. Talk to your family about participating in a secret Santa instead of buying individual gifts. If you normally do all the cooking, ask everyone to bring a dish this year so you can spend more time with loved ones instead of in the kitchen. If you make dinner, have someone else make breakfast.
  • Learn to laugh – You can break the tension in stressful situations by finding something to laugh about. It doesn’t mean the situation isn’t difficult, but it can help you face it with some positivity.
  • Enjoy music – It’s okay to take a break from the Christmas music and listen to something else that relaxes you.
  • Volunteer – Helping someone else during the holiday season can shift the focus off of ourselves and shift our stressful feelings to something positive.

If you are experiencing symptoms of stress or sadness for more than two weeks, you should seek evaluation from a behavioral health specialist. Our area is fortunate, as Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral healthcare providers dedicated to treating individuals in the community suffering from stress, anxiety and other behavioral health conditions. Cone Health also hosts a variety of support groups in the community, to help patients find strength and overcome difficulties. To find a support group in your area, visit or call 336-832-8000. Call the Cone Health Behavioral Health 24-hour HelpLine at 336-832-9700 or 800-711-2635 for immediate assistance for mental health.

Spokesperson Background:

Barbara “B” Akins is a registered nurse and staff educator at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital.  Barbara received a Bachelor of Science in nursing from North Carolina A & T University in 1975.  She is also certified in the Congregational Nurse Program, through The Duke Endowment and the Moses Cone-Wesley Long Community Health Foundation.