5 Tips to Wrap Up your Stress this Holiday Season

By Rebecca Wenrich Wheeler, MA, MEd, CSAPC
Substance Use Prevention Specialist

The holidays can be a time of increased stress, but it doesn’t have to be! Stress is a part of life. Without a little stress, we wouldn’t be very productive. But when our negative reactions to stress begin to affect our quality of life and relationships, we need to make some changes. Read on to explore 5 tips to get control of your stress during the holidays or any time of the year.

Rethink stress
Threat or a challenge? When faced with a stressor, people tend to evaluate the stress as either a threat or a challenge. Appraising a stressor as a threat likely will make you defensive and can increase your anxiety response. Naming the stressor as a challenge puts you on the offense. You can gather your resources and engage with the stressor with less fear.

Know your triggers
What triggers tend to increase your feelings of stress? Understanding your triggers can be the key to controlling stress. If you are unsure what triggers your stress, think about patterns that occur before you feel stress, patterns of feeling both in your body and in the environment. If you know your triggers, you will be better able to step back before your stress gets out of hand.

Have you noticed how difficult it can be to make decisions when your hungry, angry, lonely or tired?  That’s when it’s time to H.A.L.T. When you assess and name how you feel, you can better stop your negative stress responses in their tracks.

  • Hungry: Satisfy your hunger with a healthy meal, and avoid skipping meals. Foods such as berries, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, tea, and walnuts have been shown to help boost brain power (Harvard, 2019).
  • Angry: Put a damper on anger with relaxation and breathing exercises. Also taking a short walk can improve your mood. Check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic to put a halt to your anger.
  • Lonely: Sometimes you can get so caught up in your work and school life, that you miss engaging with other people on an emotional level. A lack of engagement with others can make people feel lonely, thus increasing negative responses to stressors. Don’t underestimate the power of social support! (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
  • Tired: When in the midst of completing long to-do lists, sleep often doesn’t make the list. Neglecting sleep not only contributes to slower decision making power, but also puts you at increased risk of illness and accidents.
    Check out the CDC’s list of sleep tips.

Take time to exercise
Regular exercise not only will help you maintain your waistline this holiday season but also your sense of calm! Exercise is linked to increased stamina, lower blood pressure, improved mood and sleep, and clear thinking. (American Heart Association, 2017).

Prioritize what’s important
Getting caught up in the details of a busy calendar can cause us to lose sight of what’s most important. If you find yourself stressing over details, ask yourself if that detail will affect you or your loved ones a week, a month, or a year from now. If the answer is “no,” it might be time to rethink the priority assigned to that item. Ultimately, when we think back on the holidays we will hold most fondly the memories we created with our loved ones, not whether we checked every box on a to-do list.

Works Cited:

American Heart Association. (2017, January 9). Working Out to Relieve Stress.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Foods linked to better brainpower.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, June 27). Your crew matters: How to build social support.

Featured Poe Program: Mission Nutrition

Grade Level: 6th-8th | Program Length: 60 minutes

Research shows that a healthy diet is an important tool for managing stress. Mission Nutrition is an interactive and conversational program that explores the challenge of balancing food and physical activity. Activities are designed to help participants discover the importance of food labels and the barriers to healthy eating and the risk associated with over- and under-eating. Participants are also helped to understand messages in the media targeting teens, and how they affect their food choices.

Featured Crio Lesson: Let’s Resolve Conflict

Grade Level: K – 5th grade | Program Length: 15-45 min

The Poe Center has partnered with SAS through Curriculum Pathways to provide online access to health science and health education lessons at no cost to teachers across the State of North Carolina. Designed to complement its health education curriculum, the Poe Center’s programs and online content are aligned with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Healthful Living and Science Essential Standards.

This lesson is designed for 4th through 5th grades. It focuses on the definition of what conflict is. It also teaches the difference between constructive and destructive ways to solve conflict. The program also addresses feelings and anger being part of conflict and effective coping strategies for anger. As well as seeking support when needed.