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Family Holiday Time: Not Always a "Hallmark" Moment

PHOTO: Holiday family gatherings can be fun, but also stressful. Mental-health experts say it's OK to pace yourself and even say 'no' to situations you know could be sources of conflict. Photo credit: Jeffery Beall/Flickr Creative Commons.
PHOTO: Holiday family gatherings can be fun, but also stressful. Mental-health experts say it's OK to pace yourself and even say 'no' to situations you know could be sources of conflict. Photo credit: Jeffery Beall/Flickr Creative Commons.
December 19, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - While the holidays are a happy time for many, the stress associated with family obligations and dynamics can be the "lump of coal" in some people's Christmas stockings. According to the American Psychological Association, fatigue and stress are the top sources of negative feelings during this time of year.

Clinical social worker and psychotherapist Lisa Ferentz 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 advises limit time you spend, bring a friend to act as a buffer, and use your cell phone as an excuse for a break.

Ferentz says 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. "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 to kind of reclaim a feeling of gratitude."

Ferentz says it's also important to avoid self-destructive behaviors like over eating or drinking too much and replace them with exercise or meditation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH