Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

November 5, 2008

Coping with Holiday Stress

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Not by Karuna — karunacounseling @ 8:30 am
Tags: ,

By the American Psychological Association

The holidays can be fun, but they also can be a source of great stress — and no wonder. The holidays are often depicted as a magical time when people reconcile and dreams come true.

How Can You Deal With Continuing Family Problems During The Holidays?

Being realistic is the first step. If you have bad feelings about someone, try and avoid him or her and not make an issue of it but don’t pretend that all is well. This will enable you to feel true to yourself and less stressed out.

Do Financial Pressures Stress People Out to the Point of Ruining the Holiday Spirit?

Knowing your spending limit is also a way to relieve holiday stress. People believe that they have to go out and buy gifts because it’s the holidays, even if they can’t afford to do so. Not only is it stressful to feel that you have to buy everyone an expensive gift, but you’ll be stressed for the rest of the year trying to pay off your bills. You can show love and caring by getting something that you know is meaningful and personal for that person that doesn’t have to cost a lot.

How Do Time Pressures Affect People Around the Holidays?

People shouldn’t have to put their lives on pause or totally rearrange their schedules either because of the holidays. Learn to prioritize the invitations you accept and don’t feel that you have to go to every holiday gathering.

How Does a Person Deal With the Holidays When He or She Has Just Experienced A Recent Tragedy, Death or Romantic Break-up?

If you’re feeling really out of sorts because of any chronic or current stressors, like a death or recent romantic break-up, you may want to avoid some of the festivities because they are so out of sync with how you’re feeling. Try to tell those around you what you really need, since they may not know how to help you, and ask for their understanding if you decline an activity.

How Do You Cope With Kids Who Want Everything For The Holidays and Have No Sense of What Things Cost?

Parents need to tell their children to be realistic. It is OK to say to your child that a certain toy is too expensive. And even Santa Claus has limited funds and has to choose what to give because he has a very long list. You can also tell your children that Mom and Dad and Santa Claus will try to choose the most suitable present for the child. Children have to learn that their wish is not someone’s command and to curb their desires for instant gratification.

What Are Some Good Coping Strategies?

Take stock of your expectations and make sure they’re realistic. Don’t expect more of this time of year than of any other. Take a break from holiday music and television specials if you find that they’re turning you into “Scrooge.”

Most people dread the holidays because their inner experience is so different from what is being hyped. You should trust your own instincts and don’t try to be what you’re not. Keep up your normal routine and know that this day will pass too.

If, however, you are unable to shake what you think are “holiday blues” your feelings may not be about the holidays, but about other things in your life. If you need help in sorting out or dealing with this issue, a psychologist is a person with the training to help you do so. Call one of Karuna’s therapists.

Thanks to Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., a private practitioner in Westfield, N.J., and a former president of the American Psychological Association.

(c) Copyright 2004 American Psychological Association

Documents from apahelpcenter.org may be reprinted in their entirety with credit given to the American Psychological Association. Any exceptions to this, including requests to excerpt or paraphrase documents from apahelpcenter.org, must be presented in writing to helping@apa.org and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Permission for exceptions will be given on a one-time-only basis and must be sought for each additional use of the document.

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December 16, 2007

Holidays and Grief

By Micky O’Leary, Ph.D

You may have noticed it’s the holiday season. (I saw Christmas lights fighting for Halloween shelf space in late September and my neighborhood convenience store is now selling “candy cane cappuccino.”) Whatever your personal beliefs, it’s more or less impossible to ignore the television commercials, shopping promotions, Hallmark specials, outdoor decorations, wrapping paper, and many other obvious reminders which bombard us daily from October through the end of the year.

This can be an exciting, although stressful, time of year. Most of us have been brought up to believe that the holiday season is “magical,” a time when families get closer, hearts get lighter, and good will abounds.

For many people, the holidays are an especially wonderful time. But for just as many, the holidays are exhausting, expensive, disappointing, and/or downright depressing. This is especially true for those who are experiencing a particular sadness or loss in their lives. In a time when connection and abundance are being depicted all around, it’s especially hard to be without the people or things that are important to us.

Few people go through life without experiencing major loss(es), and those losses can seem especially painful during the holidays. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, the absence of family, illness, losing a job, the ending of a relationship, financial setbacks, or any number of other difficult life events, grieving often intensifies when we’re faced with the huge discrepancy between our own experience and what appears to be the experience of the majority. Memories of happier times and friends and family who seem excited by the festivities may only increase our sense of being isolated and out of step.

If the holidays are hard for you, be assured that you are not alone. Many people do not feel like celebrating and wish they could somehow be transported from October to mid-January. If you are in that group, or just a little less than thrilled with the traditional holiday festivities, your feelings are understandable. This is an especially useful time to focus on ways to take care of yourself and reduce unnecessary stress.

One way to do this is by adjusting your expectations – of yourself, as well as others. Adopt a nurturing and self-accepting attitude toward yourself. Try not to feel guilty or self-critical because you feel sad or lonely. Seek support from family and friends. If they are a source of your stress, make sure you have some “down time” to rest and regroup. You may even consider volunteering some time to those who are in need – helping others is often the best way to help yourself feel better.

If this is your first holiday season since the death of a loved one, be especially gentle with yourself. Recognize the painful nature of “firsts” and treat yourself kindly. You may choose to keep traditional holiday activities or you may decide you want to break with tradition and do something entirely different. There is no right or wrong in choosing the best way to cope with a very painful time.

Whatever your loss has been, know that grieving takes time and that it is our nature to heal and grow. Just as we do what is necessary for our bodies to heal physically, we can make the choices that will allow us to heal emotionally. Regardless of where we are in our lives, this time of year offers opportunities for us to learn more about our emotional needs and how to meet them.

December 5, 2007

Holiday Bill of Rights – Part 2

The holidays can be fun, but they also can be a source of great stress — and no wonder. The holidays are often depicted as a magical time when people reconcile and dreams come true.

How Can You Deal With Continuing Family Problems During The Holidays?

Being realistic is the first step. If you have bad feelings about someone, try and avoid him or her and not make an issue of it but don’t pretend that all is well. This will enable you to feel true to yourself and less stressed out.

Do Financial Pressures Stress People Out to the Point of Ruining the Holiday Spirit?

Knowing your spending limit is also a way to relieve holiday stress. People believe that they have to go out and buy gifts because it’s the holidays, even if they can’t afford to do so. Not only is it stressful to feel that you have to buy everyone an expensive gift, but you’ll be stressed for the rest of the year trying to pay off your bills. You can show love and caring by getting something that you know is meaningful and personal for

that person that doesn’t have to cost a lot.

How Do Time Pressures Affect People Around the Holidays?

People shouldn’t have to put their lives on pause or totally rearrange their schedules either because of the holidays. Learn to prioritize the invitations you accept and don’t feel that you have to go to every holiday gathering.

How Does a Person Deal With the Holidays When He or She Has Just Experienced A Recent Tragedy, Death or Romantic Break-up?

If you’re feeling really out of sorts because of any chronic or current stressors, like a death or recent romantic break-up, you may want to avoid some of the festivities because they are so out of sync with how you’re feeling. Try to tell those around you what you really need, since they may not know how to help you, and ask for their understanding if you decline an activity.

How Do You Cope With Kids Who Want Everything For The Holidays and Have No Sense of What Things Cost?

Parents need to tell their children to be realistic. It is OK to say to your child that a certain toy is too expensive. And even Santa Claus has limited funds and has to choose what to give because he has a very long list. You can also tell your children that Mom and Dad and Santa Claus will try to choose the most suitable present for the child. Children have to learn that their wish is not someone’s command and to curb their desires for instant gratification.

What Are Some Good Coping Strategies?

Take stock of your expectations and make sure they’re realistic. Don’t expect more of this time of year than of any other. Take a break from holiday music and television specials if you find that they’re turning you into "Scrooge."

Most people dread the holidays because their inner experience is so different from what is being hyped. You should trust your own instincts and don’t try to be what you’re not. Keep up your normal routine and know

that this day will pass too.

If, however, you are unable to shake what you think are "holiday blues" your feelings may not be about the holidays, but about other things in your life. If you need help in sorting out or dealing with this issue, a psychologist is a person with the training to help you do so. Call one of Karuna’s therapists.

Thanks to Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., a private practitioner in Westfield, N.J., and a former president of the American Psychological Association.

(c) Copyright 2004 American Psychological Association

Documents from apahelpcenter.org may be reprinted in their entirety with credit given to the American Psychological Association. Any exceptions to this, including requests to excerpt or paraphrase documents from apahelpcenter.org, must be presented in writing to helping@apa.org and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Permission for exceptions will be given on a one-time-only basis and must be sought for each additional use of the document.

November 16, 2007

Holiday Bill of Rights

Filed under: 2007 and earlier — karunacounseling @ 2:36 pm
Tags: , ,

By the American Psychological Association

1. You have the right to say TIME OUT, anytime you need to. Time out to let up, blow a little steam, step away from the holidays, have a “huddle” time and start over.

2. You have the right to TELL IT LIKE IT IS. When people ask, “How are you?” you have a right to tell them how you REALLY feel, not just want they want to hear. You need to take care of yourself, be attuned to your feelings (P.S. You also have the right to smile and say you’re fine, because telling them how you really feel isn’t worth your time – some people will never understand anyway.)

3. You have the right to some “BAH HUMBUG” days. You don’t have to be “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” all the time. You are not a bad person just because you don’t feel like singing Christmas carols all day.

4. You have the right to DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY. There is no law that says you must always do the holidays the same way. You can send 10 cards instead of 100 – or no cards at all. You can open presents at someone else’s house. You can do without a tree. You can have pizza instead of a turkey. Make up your own rules.

5. You have a right to BE WHERE YOU WANT TO BE. Be at home, or with relatives, or with friends. Be in any city or state you choose. There’s no law that says you have to stay home.

6. You have the right to have some FUN. Don’t be afraid of what someone will say if they see you laughing and having a good time. Laughter is every bit as therapeutic as tears. If you are doing something that your loved one would have enjoyed, think of their laughter and feel their laughter inside of you.

7. You have the right to change direction in MID-STREAM. Grief is unpredictable. You may be all ready to go somewhere or do something and be suddenly overwhelmed, immobilized. When that happens, it’s okay to change your mind.

8. You have the right to do things at DIFFERENT TIMES. Go to church or synagogue at a different time. Open presents at a different time. Serve your meal at a different time. Go to bed at a different time. You are not a slave to the holiday clock.

9. You have the right to REST, PEACE, and SOLITUDE. You don’t need to be busy all the time. Take a nap whenever you need one. Take time to pray or meditate or recharge your spirit – it can do much more for you than eating another big meal.

10. YouYou have the right to DO IT ALL DIFFERENT AGAIN NEXT YEAR. Just because you change things one year or try something different, does not mean you have written it in stone. Next year you can always change it back or do it in yet, another new way.

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November 10, 2007

Emotional Eating During The Holiday Season

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Addiction & Recovery,Molly's Articles,Physical Health & Wellness — karunacounseling @ 4:49 pm
Tags: , , , ,

By Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC,CMT and Molly Keeton, Ph.D.

The holidays are an emotional time and often a time of overeating. As family and friends come together, food is often the focus of celebrations. Below are some tips to think about during holiday dining. Allowing yourself to enjoy food during the holiday season is a great option when it is a conscious choice.

Ask yourself if you are hungry.

Take a breath before reaching for food.

Ask yourself how you feel in that moment.

Imagine tasting the food in front of you and decide

if it is really what you want.

When allowing yourself to indulge, plan some limits ahead of time.

Drink plenty of water.

Don’t skip meals to make up for too many sweets.

Be compassionate with yourself and your choices.

Eat regular meals and healthy snacks to avoid being over-hungry.

Prepare a list of alternatives to eating.

Make healthier versions of favorite recipes.

Make room for emotional support.

Read this list before going to events.

Remember that most often finding a balance in life is a healthy goal to obtain.

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November 1, 2004

Handling the Holidays..in a New Way

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Anxiety,Molly's Articles,Relationships & Intimacy — karunacounseling @ 4:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

By Molly Keeton, Ph.D.& Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC,CMT

The time is coming..food, festivities, and family. This can be a combination for fun or it can be a recipe for the blues. The following is a few ideas for shifting the holiday “shoulds”.

We tend to follow the same traditions every year because, in theory, it gives us some comfort and connection. This year take some time before hand to evaluate which traditions are truly enjoyable for you. This includes who you spend the holidays with, what traditions you participate in, how much time you spend with others and how much time you spend alone. What would your ideal holiday look like? Be creative. Does it include friends, volunteering, staying at home with relatives? If you do spend time with family, how much time is enough time before you find your self needing some space? Forcing yourself into too much togetherness can create resentment that may go outward or turn inward Either way you are not helping yourself or those around you.

When making plans to change holiday traditions, be prepared for responses that you are likely to receive. Does your family use guilt or coercion to keep things at status quo? Anticipating the tactics that might be utilized can help you to plan in advance how to respond without getting caught up in old patterns. It might be helpful to discuss this with your therapist and to use role-play to get feedback on your approach. Talking to your family about your plans in advance is
preferable to discussing it during the holidays when the emotions are high.

It is important to remember that we are adults now and get to make our holidays what we want them to be. Keep in mind that when interacting with our families, it is easy to revert back to childlike ways of coping. Though these patterns kept us safe when we were younger, they currently keep us engaged in the dysfunctional system. Chances are you are in a space in your life in which you don’t solely rely on your parents for food, shelter, support, and love. Therefore you have more opportunity to make your own choices without threat of losing your foundation.

Making changes can cause temporary stress even though the long-term gains are helpful. To soothe your discomfort, try some of the following: take a hot bath, call a friend, treat yourself to a massage, write in your journal, allow yourself a day off from your to-do list, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, or make yourself a nourishing meal.

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