Have a Stress-Free Holiday!

Created by
Karen Gray CH, RN

and a free gift for you!

For many of us, the Holiday Season means family, friends, caroling, gathering, feasting, and parities, shopping and gifts. And for many of us the Holiday Season also means stress, anxiety, and fears.

We could talk about the ways and reasons that we get stressed out preparing to impress family and friends with a holiday feast, and we could discuss the emotional traumas that resurface when we think about facing  family that we might otherwise avoid, and we could even talk about whether it is the winter driving or that we have to fly across the country that sends us into a panic attack.

And yes, we could talk about how people tend to fall back into bad habits this time of year, giving in to cravings, indulging a little more in the alcohol, and hoping the caffeine will keep them energized.

We could talk about all those things, and more. Or we could talk about how to quiet those negative feelings and respond with calm, peace, and confidence.

Let’s talk about the stress for just a minute first, so that we can understand that there really is nothing wrong with us, and that we can absolutely get back control over all those things that seem to be out of our control in this busy and bustling season.

Many of us have the expectation that the holiday season is supposed to be a relaxing time. We can see it as an opportunity for spending time with friends and family, and as a way to reflect back on the year. And sometimes we can set that expectation too high, and the holidays can become filled with stress of all varieties. There are work, family, and friend obligations that all need attention and in the end the holidays can feel more like a burden than a chance to relax and reconnect.

According to a survey from Think Finance and reported on www.nbcnews.com, forty-five percent of Americans would prefer to skip Christmas. That statistic can tell us something about our coping mechanisms when it comes to handling holiday stress.

It’s a widespread problem. Nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling “extreme stress,” according to a poll by the American Psychological Association. Statistics show that up to 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time,” 69 percent are stressed by believing they have a “lack of money,” and 51 percent are stressed out about the “pressure to give or get gifts.”

The stress and anxiety of the holiday season, especially during the months of November and December (and to a lesser extent, just before Valentine’s Day) can manifest in symptoms that we should be on the lookout for. The symptoms of increased stress are indicators that our bodies are being affected, and that we need to start to relax.

The symptoms of stress include headaches, sleep disturbances, fatigue, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, short temper, upset stomach, low job satisfaction and morale, aching muscles (including lower back pain), loss of appetite, changes in behavior, a lack of interest in activities, and a decline in productivity and work performance.

What About It?

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It's important to understand the often invisible impact that the holidays can have on stress levels and productivity. Part of becoming aware is listening to yourself (and your loved ones) and watching out for signs of stress. When you see the effects of stress begin to escalate, then it is time to scale back, take some time to reset and rest.

Managers in the workplace also need to consider the possibility of “presenteeism” on the job. Presenteeism happens when employees show up for work with hidden effects of stress and stress-related mental and physical ailments. They’re present at work but they are under-performing.

With absenteeism, you know when someone doesn’t show up for work, but presenteeism isn’t always apparent. You often can’t tell when, or how much, illness or a medical condition or stress is hindering someone’s performance.

A year-long telephone survey of 29,000 working adults dubbed the “American Productivity Audit” calculated the cost of presenteeism in the U.S. to be more than $150 billion a year. Most studies confirm that presenteeism is far more costly than illness-related absenteeism or disability. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that stress-related illness such as depression and pain conditions such as headaches, back problems (both of which can be stress related) and arthritis cost US businesses nearly $82 billion a year.

What Do We Do?

During holiday time, stress is ratcheted up by a number of factors. We can feel the pressures of a lack of money, shopping decisions and deadlines, parties, strained family relations, pleasing family and friends, having “the perfect” holiday, and the media bombardment of happy, smiling families and friends enjoying holiday festivities.

There’s also the increased vulnerability. We experience emotions on a bigger scale around the holiday, so we are more affected by recent personal losses, the death of a loved one, a divorce. or the breakup of a relationship. Some of the most common stressors can be feelings of loneliness and “being without family.”

There are some ways that you can be kinder to yourself this season. If you can, take advantage of flexible hours during the holidays. Power down your smartphones to give yourself some boundaries, relieve mental fatigue by periodically walking away from your work or computer screen, listen to your body for signs of stress, and stick to a regular sleep schedule. It’s also important to emphasize eating well, exercising, relaxing, planning ahead, not being too hard on oneself, and not expecting the holidays to come off “perfectly.”

If you are a manager at work, one-on-one coaching might be part of your role. If so, be clear about what’s causing your concerns without putting your employee on the defensive. Show you care by asking “What can I do to help?” Focus on the issues and not the personality.

Intruding on an employee’s “private space” can be awkward, and many managers are reluctant to do so, but the alternative might be accidents, injury, or continued deteriorating work performance. And although you’re not a mental health specialist, you can point an employee to those professional resources if needed. Your workplace will be healthier, safer and more productive if you get involved and show support. And the holidays will be less stressful for you, too.

The Role of Hypnosis

I have certainly said it before, hypnosis is almost custom made for relieving and learning to manage stress effectively. Here are some simple things that you can do to move out of a stressed place and give your mind and body some space.

Abdominal Breathing

The thing about abdominal breathing is that you can do it anytime and anywhere, and it relieve stress and removes anxiety almost instantly. Close your eyes and take 3 abdominal breaths. To take an abdominal breath:

  1. push your stomach muscles out and allow yourself to take a deep breath in.
  2. Let your lungs fill as deep as you can
  3. hold the breath for just a second before exhaling slowly.

Abdominal breathing fills your body with the oxygen it needs to nourish each of your cells and releases “feel good” chemicals in your brain that move you away from stress. Try it in sets of four whenever you feel a little tense or tired.

Self-Guided Suggestions

Like affirmations, self-guided suggestions use a positive phrase to create a pleasant state. The difference between affirmations and hypnosis is visualizing your desired outcome. Activating your imagination in this way taps into the specific neurons in your brain to create new and better connections to good and positive feelings.

  1. Sit in a safe and comfortable place, usually on the edge of your bed, with your hands resting comfortably on your legs.

  1. Close your eyes and take 3 abdominal breaths.

  1. Repeat this suggestion 10 times, either out loud or to yourself:

“Every day, in every way, I am better and better!”

  1. While you are giving yourself this suggestion, imagine or picture yourself as if you are looking in a full length mirror, exactly how you want to be, being able to do all the things you want to do, as if you are already living in your success.

  1. When you have repeated the suggestion 10 times, take a deep, slow breath and open your eyes. You can go on to bed now, feeling relaxed in every way.

Audio Hypnosis Programs

Audio hypnosis programs are recordings of hypnosis sessions that you listen to outside of the hypnotist’s or hypnotherapist’s office. They are usually quick and effective sessions used to complement and reinforce the work you are doing with your hypnotist, or they can be stand-alone sessions to be used on their own.

You can use this link to get instant access to our Stress Relief Audio Hypnosis Program completely free of charge:


Take time out to be good to yourself. The holidays will come and go no matter what you do, so allow yourself to enjoy them, and ask for help when you need it.∎

Karen Gray is a Certified Hypnotist, a Registered Nurse, and the Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, you can visit www.greenmountainhypnosis.com, contact Karen at karengray@greenmountainhypnosis.com, or call (802) 566-0464.


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