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Hazards of Holiday: Too Much Turkey - and Family?

PHOTO: Holiday family gatherings can be fun for some, but for others they can be stressful and unpleasant. Mental health experts say it's okay to pace yourself and even say "no" to some situations you know will be sources of conflict. Photo credit: Steel Wool/Flickr.
PHOTO: Holiday family gatherings can be fun for some, but for others they can be stressful and unpleasant. Mental health experts say it's okay to pace yourself and even say "no" to some situations you know will be sources of conflict. Photo credit: Steel Wool/Flickr.
December 16, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. - While the holidays are a happy time for many, the stress associated with family obligations and dynamics can be a "lump of coal" in the Christmas stockings for some.

According to the American Psychological Association, fatigue and stress are the top sources of negative feelings during the holidays.

Lisa Ferentz, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, says sometimes the best thing to do is simply not participate in a potentially stressful situation.

"Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to avoid family interactions that you know are going to be too painful, or that will set you up to be 'triggered' in some way," she says.

If you do feel compelled to see family or friends who can be a source of conflict, Ferentz recommends you limit the time you spend, bring a friend to act as a buffer, and use a cellphone as an excuse for a break.

According to Ferentz, sometimes the best relief is to break away from habits from the past by beginning a new tradition, or doing something for others.

"I encourage people to volunteer during this time of year," she says. "I think when you do things that kind of help you step outside of yourself and your own emotional upset, it gives you perspective about life. It also helps you reclaim a feeling of gratitude."

Ferentz says it's important to avoid self-destructive behaviors such as overeating or drinking too much. She recommends replacing them with exercise or meditation.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC