How to navigate difficult holiday situations, according to Atlanta experts

Having a Poor Relationship With Family Could Make You Sick

The holiday season is a time of festive celebrations, but it can also be a stressful time. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), roughly a third of Americans anticipate being more stressed out this holiday season than last year. From difficulty affording holiday gifts to dealing with difficult family members, the holidays are creating anxiety across the country.

For a less stressful holiday season, consider these tips:

Focus on friends and family, rather than gifts

Scarcity can cause serious stress, so the APA suggested focusing on family.

“Economic burdens have run high in our polling for the past few years as a source of concern, and that makes sense given the challenges we’ve all shared,” APA president Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A. said in the report. “Connecting with supportive family and friends is more meaningful to our mental health than the commercial aspects of the season. The kindness with which you treat yourself and those you love during the holiday season is the very best gift you can give.”

Don’t sacrifice your own health for a holiday-card-perfect season

Whatever your stressor is this holiday season, remember that your health is a priority.

“Tis the season to keep our mental and physical health in mind as we enjoy the festivities,” APA CEO and medical director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., said in the report. “It’s tempting to want to do everything, to travel to see everyone, to shop for that very special gift, and to compare ourselves to that very perfect staged family picture we see on social media. But in January, when the holidays come to an end, what will be most important is that you are feeling well, and that will come when you take the occasional breath and have some perspective.”

Build your resilience through your own narrative

Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences professors Sheila A.M. Rauch, PhD, and Barbara O. Rothbaum, PhD, published an article on Nov. 17, offering a number of strategies for promoting emotional processing, resilience and greater empowerment during holiday season.

“Think of your life as a story, with each difficult experience as a chapter,” they aadvised. “Instead of repeatedly reopening the book only to hastily close it, approach your memories and let yourself feel what comes along with those memories. By reading through the chapters/memories methodically you can come to a new understanding of what makes you who you are today. If needed, seek expert help or resources to guide you through the process of integrating challenging memories into your life story, fostering resilience and moving forward.”