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Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

Are You Coping in a Healthy Way?

By November 18, 2011

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The holiday season can be a stressful time. With the combined stressors of holiday shopping, financial strain, difficult relatives, travel stress and a busy schedule of demands, many people find themselves more stressed than usual. Women, who often shoulder the bulk of the added holiday burden as far as baking, shopping, coordinating, party-throwing and planning are concerned, are often particularly stressed during this time.

This added stress can come out in many different ways. Some people respond to stress emotionally, either feeling anxiety, depression or anger and frustration. Others respond with a weakened immune system, getting sick more frequently (which is more of a danger during this season anyway, as people crowd indoors and swap germs in airports and malls). Others just power through and find themselves battling burnout by the end of the year.

As people try to cope with all these stressors, relatively few people take the time to learn new stress management practices; most just use their regular coping tactics, but to a greater degree. This is fine for people who normally cope with stress in a healthy way. For many people--people who do use some healthy coping techniques--also cope with stress in unhealthy ways, either with 'comfort food', a glass of wine, a shopping trip or something similar. These behaviors aren't the healthiest coping techniques to begin with, but they aren't generally as harmful as when they're taken to an extreme. Under increased pressure, mildly unhealthy coping becomes emotional overeating, excessive drinking, chain smoking, compulsive buying, and the like. And these responses to stress generally add more stress.

How does one deal? By replacing unhealthy coping with healthy stress management techniques.

First, finding some healthier ways to reduce stress can make quite a difference here because, when there is less stress to react to, unhealthy responses can diminish. Also, when healthy coping skills are substituted for unhealthy ones, it's easier to let go of unhealthy habits. Finally, after working harder at healthy stress management (which can include ideas mentioned in the resources below), if you still find yourself feeling overwhelmed with stress or coping in a way that causes problems in other areas of your life, it might be a good idea to talk to someone and find resources to help.

Holiday stress can be a bit daunting, but it can also be just the thing you need to cause you to reexamine your lifestyle and your reactions to stress, and create healthier habits for the coming year, and for your future. Here are some resources to help.

Coping Resources from Elizabeth Scott

  • Unhealthy Responses to Stress: What Are They?
  • Quiz: Is Your Stress Level Unhealthy?
  • Building Resilience to Stress
  • Healthy Coping Strategies
  • Sign Up for Free E Courses and The Weekly Stress Management Newsletter!
  • Find More Holiday Stress Relief Resources In The Holiday Survival Guide
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