Expert offers tips for overcoming holiday stress

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – The holiday season can be a double-edged sword of emotions.

On the one hand, there’s Christmas cheer. On the other hand, there is holiday stress.

The list of holiday stresses could stretch for miles.

Dr. Jennifer Hutchens with the Hamilton Center can list just a few of the many.

“Financial stress, family stress, getting together with your family, if there’s a loss in your family, time management stress, putting on that holiday weight and stress about that,” Hutchens said.

Hutchens says some stress around the holiday is to be expected. But, she says to be on the lookout for things to get worse.

“We talk a lot about holiday blues particularly around this time. Depression, it’s different. You see isolation, loss of energy, not wanting to do things you used to enjoy doing,” Hutchens said.

Hutchens says for those with existing anxiety or depression, their symptoms can be amplified this time of year.

She recommends that people be sensitive to glaring signs of anxiety.

“Your thoughts are like a news ticker at the bottom of the screen and they’re going and going and you can’t slow them down. But also physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, or heart palpitations,” Hutchens explained.

So if you notice these symptoms in yourself, how do you go about returning to mental wellness?

“Seek help,” Hutchens says, “Do not isolate yourself. Do not feel that you’re alone. Rather, seek help. Whether it’s through family, friends, or professional help. That’s one of the first things you can do.”

But what if you aren’t the victim, rather a family member or friend?

Hutchens says, “Simply, just ask. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Is there something you want to talk about?’ ‘What’s going on?’ You know, a lot of times individuals think that asking is the worst thing you can do because you don’t want to bring it up and it makes the person uncomfortable. Well that person is already uncomfortable. So, asking can actually make someone feel a little better.”

Offering that listening ear, even if you have to step out of your comfort zone, can help bring that loved one back into the Christmas spirit.

Talking things out may not be a quick fix, but Hutchens says that is okay.

“Accepting that you are feeling anxious along with the other feelings that you have… there’s sadness, there’s joy, there’s happiness, and they may be less so. But, just acknowledging the fact that you have it can get you really far,” according to Hutchens.

One idea is once you identify what is causing you stress, come up with a way to combat it.

For example, if you are stressed about racking up holiday credit card debt, try to step back and make a plan for paying it off.

Hutchens says unfortunately there is a negative stigma around mental health.

Because of this, she says some people are afraid to admit they need help.

This can lead to someone mentally checking out or feeling miserable because of becoming overwhelmed with holiday stress.

Hutchens says if you think you or a loved one is suffering from a lack of mental wellness, don’t ignore it.

If you start the process of “talking things out” with a loved one and don’t feel well-equipped enough to help, reach out to a professional.

You can contact the Hamilton Center at: (800) 742-0787 or visit their location at 620 8th Avenue in Terre Haute in person.

If the situation or need arises, you can also reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: (800) 273-8255. NSPL also has an instant messaging feature that can be found here.