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E58: Tips for Reducing Stress Caused by Visiting Family Over the Holidays

First, I want to talk about the difference between stress and anxiety. They are both emotional responses. However, stress is typically caused by an external trigger (something going on in our world) and this stress can cause irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive problems, and sleep issues. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a bit more persistent, and often more excessive than stress. Anxiety involves excessive worries that don't go away, even when our stressor is gone. Anxiety can cause insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability. Anxiety can have a lot of the same symptoms as stress, but it is a little bit different.

 


Holiday stress and mindfulness

I often tell my clients that stress is more mental and anxiety is more physical. If we are stressed we're simply thinking all these stressful thoughts. However, with anxiety, our nervous system is triggered and we're really feeling it in our body.

 

Not having as much control over circumstances as you normally do can cause stress and/or anxiety. And this is certainly the case when we go visit family for the holidays. Sleeping in a different bed with different bedding can cause strain. Another is how the shower works. When I go to a hotel, I'm like, “This shower does not have the same number of little holes as mine at home.” And it just throws me off. Another example is, what time you leave the house. When you're in group with your family, you have to wait for the group or the group is pushing you to leave faster than you want to.

 

When we're not in these holiday family dynamics, we usually have a lot more control of who we're spending our time with and how much time we're spending with them. However, simple mindfulness techniques can help you reduce your stress and anxiety considerably during this holiday season. Take pauses to sit with your emotions, notice your body sensations and focus on your breathing.

 

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