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Holiday Stress - It's Okay to Say No

Updated: Mar 18

The holidays have me thinking about people who “stress” during the holiday. I had a roommate long ago who would do all the cute, sweet, thoughtful things for people during the holidays: creating mugs stuffed with little gifts, sending out cards to everyone, and volunteering for holiday parties. I thought, “Wow, that is a lot of energy, and it is so thoughtful”. Maybe I “should” be doing more! Then it must have hit a point of being stressful because in the middle of it, there was complaining and “I don’t have time for all of this; Why am I doing this?”. It did not look fun. I thought, “Why stress yourself out so much?”

It has stuck with me all of these years. We could get into the why of it all, but that would take some time, and I am writing this to talk about the differences between…stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Have you ever thought about this?

  1. Stress: This is a response to a perceived threat or challenge. Stress can be caused by various factors, such as work pressure, relationship issues, or major life changes. It's a natural and sometimes necessary part of life, and it can motivate individuals to act.

  2. Anxiety: While stress is typically a response to a specific stressor, anxiety is often more generalized and can persist even in the absence of an immediate threat. It's a heightened state of arousal and worry about future events. Anxiety can become problematic when it interferes with daily functioning.

  3. Overwhelm: This is a feeling of being overburdened or overcome, often when there's too much to handle at once. It can result from a combination of stressors and can manifest as difficulty concentrating, feeling scattered, or being unable to prioritize tasks.

In Brene` Brown’s (research psychologist) book, Atlas of the Heart- Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of the Human Experience (2021), she writes about stress as “my emotions are responding to my “thinking” assessment of how well I can handle something”, a perception (pg.6).

Brown also talks about overwhelm and cites Jon Kabat-Zinn (basically known for bringing mindfulness into the Western world) as referring to this state as “It’s all unfolding faster than my nervous system and psyche are able to manage well” (pg. 7) And this causes us to have trouble thinking clearly and to experience more intense feelings which basically puts our ability to cope logically offline.

Lastly, Brown distinguishes anxiety as a trait and a state, “some of us feel anxious mainly in response to certain situations, while some of us can be naturally more predisposed to anxiety than others” (pg.10). And then there is generalized anxiety, “a condition of excessive worry about everyday issues and situations that lasts longer than six months” (pg. 10). Furthermore, Brown goes on to talk about, “an intolerance for uncertainty is an important contributing factor to all types of anxiety” (pg. 11). If you have worked with me before, you may remember that worry, a misuse of imagination, and avoidance are often the go-to coping skills for anxiety. They only worsen that feeling and perception of threat. Working with a professional or through self-help can certainly assist you in learning new and more effective coping skills. You can request to see me for therapy or engage in my Relief for Anxiety Coaching Program. Either way, there is help!

So, have you ever thought about these differences? Coping skills are universal but also personal. When it comes to the holidays, start by deciding what to say “no” to and what you can say “yes” to; we can call those boundaries. And number one, in the moment, the way to deal with stress, overwhelm, and even anxiety, is to Stop and Take Time Out.

Here are a few other ways to cope:

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practice and engage in mindfulness and relaxation exercises to manage stress. Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation can be effective.

Prioritize Tasks: Break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Prioritize them based on urgency and importance. This can help prevent feeling overwhelmed by a large workload.

Time Management: Engage your time management skills. Utilize calendars, planners, or apps to organize tasks and allocate time appropriately.

Seek Support: Reach out for support when needed, whether it's from friends, family, colleagues, or your therapist or coach.

Self-Care: Emphasize the importance of self-care. Engage in activities that promote well-being, such as exercise, leisure activities, being with loved ones, and adequate sleep.

Reframe Negative Thoughts: Challenge and reframe negative thoughts that contribute to stress. Cognitive-behavioral techniques can be useful in this regard.

Problem-Solving Skills: It can be empowering to break down problems into manageable parts and develop actionable steps.

So, I wonder where you can apply just one tool if you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious over the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday.

Ready to request a session to bolster these coping skills? Click the "email Stacey" button below.

Overall, remember who, what, and where you are Grateful.

Wishing you less stress this holiday season,

Stacey Sciacchitano, M.Ed., MS

Licensed Psychotherapist

Anxiety Relief Coaching Program


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