Common Holiday Triggers and Experts’ Recommendations for Coping

Noemi J. Mullins

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Why are there so many triggers during the holidays? It’s a time of celebration, with family and friends, food, and gifts, but the weather is bad; it gets dark at 5 pm, and work deadlines and a hectic schedule can be overwhelming. This time of year is also a time when people can experience anxiety and stress. This week, Dr. Sanam Hafeez of The Everygirl podcast shared her tips on how to get through the toughest moments of the holidays in a healthy manner. Read on to learn how to deal with stress, whether it starts at Thanksgiving or if you’re feeling post-holiday depression after New Year’s Day. Also, check out Dr. Hafeez’s The Everygirl podcast interview for more.

You may be feeling a lot of pressure and exhaustion about the upcoming season.

You’re probably expecting too much. Chloe Ballatore is a relationship expert and an author. She explained that the holidays are stressful because of all the ‘ shoulds.’ Holidays are full of rituals and repetitive activities. Think about whether you really want to do them or if it’s just because you feel like it. Do not let expectations or your feelings of happiness override what you do.

On The Everygirl Podcast, Dr. Hafeez stressed that stress management during the holidays should be similar to stress management at any other time. She said, “You don’t have to accept every invitation.” The best advice I can give for the holidays would be the same advice I’d give for the rest of the year. Prioritizing yourself is the key to carving out time for yourself.

If you are in a bad relationship with food

Holiday gatherings are often centered around food, whether it’s Friendsgiving or gift exchanges. Hanukkah and Christmas dinners also revolve around the topic of food. It can trigger for those who have a negative relationship with food or are on a medically restricted diet. Tayler Sifverduk is a registered dietician specializing in celiac and disordered food eating. She advises being aware of people who will not accept “no” when they offer food, even if the person offering it is a well-intentioned relative or aunt.

Remind your family, if necessary, that your eating habits and body are not up for debate. Eat mindfully and plan if your food options are limited (such as bringing a side dish for your main meal if turkey is not an option). Also, remind yourself to enjoy your food.

If you find that family gatherings trigger

You may not get along well with some family members, or your family gatherings can be stressful. You may have family who disagree with your core beliefs or political views or argue at every meeting. They can also make you feel stressed or pressured. Missy McCrickard is an energy healer and breathwork facilitator. She also offers well-being coaching. She suggests setting up boundaries with family members or simply removing yourself. You can say, “No thanks,” or “I’m not interested in having this conversation.” Let your family members know about the boundaries you’ve set so they’ll know what to expect when you’re together. If you don’t feel comfortable or respected, you can let your family know that you are removing yourself from the situation.

Inlaws are a common family dynamic that can raise many questions, especially during the holidays. Dr. Hafeez offers a lot of advice in this area. She suggests that you discuss any issues or stress with your partner in order to avoid awkward situations or conflicts with inlaws. By approaching interactions with your inlaws during the holidays with kindness, curiosity, and boundaries, you can reduce the intensity of potentially difficult situations.

You may feel lonely on holidays.

The holidays can be lonely. Dr. Rebecca Leslie is a psychologist at Best Within You Therapy & Wellness. She says that the best thing you can do if you are feeling lonely is to connect in any way you find fulfilling. Create a Friendsgiving or gift exchange, or arrange a get-together (even if it’s virtual) with the people who make you happy and supportive.

Dr. Leslie told her patients that they are not alone if they feel lonely. Try to be kind and self-compassion. Spend time with your favorite hobbies, books, people, and movies, and say “no” to anything that does not make you happy. Self-compassion can ease loneliness.

You can be sober on holidays if you want.

Set boundaries and get support if you feel that your holiday tradition is triggered by a drinking or partying environment. Beth Bowen LMSW is a coach who works with women who are alcohol-free or curious about sobriety. She suggests managing your energy levels by getting enough sleep, declining invitations to social events, eating nutritious foods, and exercising regularly. You can feel more grounded and make better choices for your body by following these practices. Bring your alcohol-free beverage if you are uncomfortable being sober. Or, perfect your non-alcoholic drink order. You can choose a mocktail or non-alcoholic wine/beer.

Dr. Hafeez strongly recommends bringing your non-alcoholic drink to a holiday party if you are worried about the availability. She said, “If you are having a sober vacation, bring something to make you feel as if you have a drink in your hand.” She emphasizes the importance of being supportive of friends and family members who may not be interested in drinking alcohol at this time of year. It is always appreciated when you respect boundaries and show support by providing non-alcoholic beverages to guests.

You may be experiencing financial stress during the holidays.

We often show our love by giving gifts, even though this is a time when we should spend more time with family and friends than to spend money. We spend money beyond our shopping list on new clothes, food, and ddrinksto bring to parties or travel expenses. “First, you should remember that you are not the only one,” said Sara Kuburic, a holiday triggers psychologist, consultant, writer, and columnist. “Be honest with the people you spend time with and stick to your budget. Find traditions that are cheaper or free.”

It’s good news: Giving doesn’t need to be expensive. Making homemade gifts, such as jewelry, candles, or art, can reduce costs and be more thoughtful and personal than store-bought ones. While it’s hard to say no, you can set boundaries and forgo gift exchanges or other events that are more stressful financially than enjoyable. Instead, plan activities with your loved ones that will not cost much money and cause you stress.

No matter what triggers you, it doesn’t matter.

Consistent self-care throughout the year is important, but it’s especially crucial during times of high stress or triggers like this holiday season. Dr. “Make a daily schedule so that you can plan and schedule ways to take care of yourself,” suggested. Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD is a celebrity author, speaker, and psychologist. Plan self-care before, during, or after the days that will be especially demanding. Also, plan a strategy for when you are feeling triggered. You can ground yourself by taking ten breaths in from your stomach, journaling, talking to a trusted friend, or using any other coping strategies you may have.

Dr. Hafeez said that all of the advice given for the holidays is applicable year-round. If you take care of yourself all year long, your holidays will be easier next year. Ask for help from family members, friends, or a therapist.

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