Help for Holiday Stress
Writer // John Cinnamon Photographer // Laura Arick
Decorating. Thanksgiving dinner. Family visits. Christmas shopping. Office parties. School programs. Neighborhood parties. Christmas dinner. New Year’s Eve parties.
While some people thrive on the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, there are many that are paralyzed by the stress. From long-simmering family tensions that invariably bubble over at the Thanksgiving dinner table to trying – often in vain – to maintain a healthy lifestyle when there are cookies and cakes at every turn, the holidays can easily become anything but a joyous occasion.
“Stress can come and go, but there is also a time when stress can become so bothersome that you need to reach out to someone,” says Dr. Kelly Young, owner of Evergreen Psychological Services in Zionsville. She says having the support of a good social network of friends and family is the first step.
Also, knowing how to manage your own stress can be helpful. “Try and manage expectations,” says Dr. Young. “Setting realistic expectations is extremely important during this time. The idea that no holiday is perfect is key. If you are concerned about getting together with family members, being proactive and planning activities is often helpful or try focusing on positive memories, relationships, or conversations.”
But if that does not seem to work, she suggests reaching out to a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional, and that is where can help. With a staff of five psychologists, a psychiatrist, a licensed mental health practitioner and a licensed clinical social worker, Evergreen offers the full spectrum of mental health services for everyone from children to the elderly.
Dr. Young realizes that many people may feel like there is a stigma attached to seeking out a mental health professional. “The hope is that people are aware of the adverse consequences or negative impact that holiday stresses may have,” she says. “And it is more important to get help, to reach out and say, ‘You know what? I am going to need some guidance to get through the situation that I’m in.’”
“Our clinicians can help identify problem areas and develop action plans to help,” says Dr. Young. “They can also help individuals develop strategies to cope with their unique circumstances. Substance use often comes during the holidays. People may cope with stress by drinking.”
If that is the case, Dr. Young recommends Dr. Colin Rak-Dietz, a psychologist at Evergreen who specializes in the treatment of substance use disorders. He can also help patients deal with grief and loss, a problem common to the holiday season. “This can be a very emotional time for people,” says Dr. Young. “It can be a very happy, joyous time, but it can also be a time where we remember those who are not with us.”
Those with eating disorders can find the holidays particularly stressful. “If you struggle with restricting or overeating, and you are surrounded by party after party after party, it can be extremely stressful, says Dr. Young. For those individuals, she suggests Dr. Stephanie Drescher, another one of Evergreen’s psychologists, who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, including over-eating, under-eating, binge eating, and body acceptance.
The winter months can often be difficult for individuals who have seasonal affective disorders or physical conditions that may be exacerbated by the fall and winter. For those clients, there is Timothy Salmons, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
If you do not feel you are ready for professional help, Dr. Young says it’s still important to take care of yourself during the busy and stressful holidays. “Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, and regular physical activity. All of those are extremely helpful to manage stress during this time,” she says.
And maintain this basic perspective: “Thanksgiving is one Thursday of the whole year, and Christmas is one day, so while it’s a very intense time, it’s a very short period of time.”
But if (or when) it all gets to be too much, know that you have somewhere close to turn: Evergreen Psychological Services. Visit evergreenzionsville.com.