ACA Blog

Dec 06, 2013

No thanks – I don’t want a side of stress with that.

The first week of December is generally filled with mixed emotions for many people.  For one, Thanksgiving has just passed and a statement I hear all too often is, “I’m still recovering from my food coma!” Since the other holidays are also right around the corner, many talk shows, blogs, and magazines start popping up titles such as, “Holiday Stress Busters.”  There’s no doubting that stressful situations will appear in abundant quantities around this time.  Here’s the good news though – since we know they’re on the way, we can actually do something about them.  Just as there are several different aspects of our lives that stress may affect (work, health, relationships), there are just as many ways to address them.  I could reference several superb stress guides that go in depth about physical or spiritual therapies.   However, I always prefer to stick to the basics when possible.  Simple remedies are often forgotten but, in my opinion, may do the trick.  Keep in mind, though, that a moderate amount of stress is actually good for the body because it keeps us in check.  When we pass the healthy level, here are some practical ways to get back on track.

Learn to Say No

Do you really need to volunteer to bake two-dozen cupcakes for a friend or for your child’s school party? Do you absolutely have to proofread your classmate’s paper when you have your own to work on?  Be kind to yourself and respect your limits.  This is something that I’m personally working on, so I understand it’s easier said than done.  If you’re like me and feel guilty when others ask for help, find time to do something thoughtful for them at a later time.  It gets easier with time, so start practicing your assertive, but polite, “no” tone right now!

Laugh

I probably don’t need to tell anyone who’s reading this about an amazing website called YouTube.com that’s filled with ridiculous and funny videos.  Feeling overwhelmed?  Take a 5-minute break from whatever you’re doing and just find something entertaining to watch and laugh about.

Have sneakers? Put them on.

Don’t over think this one, just do it.  It’s common knowledge that exercise helps you to relax, but just the word itself is sometimes associated with pure discomfort.  Working out doesn’t necessarily have to equate to working hard.  In fact, in order to relieve stress, it may be helpful to do the opposite.  Go for a 10-minute walk, climb a tree in your backyard, or indulge in a good stretch.

Breathe

Inhale through your nose (and belly) and exhale slowly through your mouth.  Simple and effective. The more you do it regularly, the better you’ll feel.

Plan

This is probably one of my favorite stress-reducing techniques of all time.  My friends often tease me for over planning everything – and sometimes I worry that it limits my ability to be spontaneous  -- but I’ve realized that there are certain times I’d prefer to be over-prepared than unpleasantly surprised.  The holidays (which conveniently seem to fall around final exams!) are one of these times.  To-do lists are simple and can be wondrous for those of us who can’t seem to avoid multi-tasking.

What’s your favorite Holiday Stress Buster? Please share below!
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Sadaf Siddiqi is a certified counselor with an interest in mental health research and its application to children and families. Please share your thoughts with her at ssiddi12@jhu.edu.

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