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Christmas season full of cheer for some; overwhelming, stressful for others

Crystal Graham
holiday blues
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The holidays can lead to a lot of added anxiety and stressful situations. With gift shopping, travel and time with family and friends, it can be overwhelming for many people.

“Planning and prioritizing what activities are the most important is a better strategy than exhaustingly trying to do everything and ending up not enjoying it,” said Rosanna Breaux, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. “Setting boundaries and being able to decline invitations may help combat stress, especially if a party involves a person who is particularly triggering for you or a member of your family.”

Breaux said that self-care and a consistent sleep schedule can help you get through the holidays and reduce stress.

“Poor self-care can make stress worse, but exercise and healthy sleep habits can reduce anxiety and improve mood and attention,” said Breaux.

Financial pressures and the desire for everything to be perfect often add to anxiety around the holidays. Breaux said to try to limit social media and comparisons to others and avoid movies that portray a perfect holiday season.

“For parents, expectations can range from getting the perfect gift for each child, with resulting financial pressures, to getting the perfect family holiday photo,” said Breaux.

For some, being around family can be “triggering,” and the anticipation of the event can be more stressful than actually being around these people.

“Being around triggering people, who may be family or friends, requires planning on how they will be handled,” said Breaux.

To help reduce stress and limit extensive travel, Breaux suggests alternative gathering options like connecting with family via video call or group text when it’s not possible to be in person.

The holidays may also bring about a sense of grief for those missing a loved one.

“Holidays can make people, especially parents, feel grief for their own parents or loved ones who they may have lost,” said Breaux. “It may be good to include an activity that honors the memory of those who have been lost to keep them close during the holidays.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.