Robert Lagrou, D. O. Psychiatrist, Henry Ford Kingswood Hospital joined Deena Centofanti in a live chat room Wednesday morning. See the questions posed and the answers given in the chat room replay above; how to prevent or deal with stress this holiday season.
Lights, laughter, family and fun are synonymous with the holidays, but the joy of the season can quickly be replaced by stress when there's simply too much to do and not enough time or money. From family squabbles, depression and alcohol abuse, to shopping stress and being separated from a loved one, the holidays can be both physically and emotionally draining.
Failing to plan and prioritize will most certainly leave you feeling frazzled.
Having unrealistic expectations promotes stress. Individuals place undue pressure on themselves when they operate from the premise that everything must be perfect. Believe it or not, your family will be just fine if you don't get the lights up or the cards mailed. Even if the cookies are a little charred, it's okay. Your presence and time spent with your family and friends is the best gift you can give.
Giving gifts to loved ones may make you feel good on Christmas morning but going way over budget can have a negative effect well into the New Year, leading to… more stress.
Family gatherings that involve a lot of criticism and nit picking can be stressful for everyone in the house.
Coping with the loss of a loved one can make the holidays both lonely and extremely stressful.
Avoiding and Managing Holiday Stress
Decide what's really important to you. Is being with the family your goal or are you bent on devoting all of your time to cooking and cleaning? Develop a plan for what' you'll fit into your day and don't allow unexpected tasks and requests to get you off track.
Each day's "to do" list must include "you" time . In order to take care of others, you first need to take care of yourself. Do things that make you feel good, such as exercise, listening to music, meditating, taking a long bath or watching a funny movie. Laughter can really elevate your mood.
Navigating Family Conflict
If you can't avoid holiday gatherings with family members that always rekindle feuds and conflicts, try talking about your desire to avoid conflict before things get heated up. From the onset of the gathering ask that differences be set aside.
You still might not be able to shush the offending relative but you can at least control how you react to what they say or do. Statements from kinfolk that appear critical, interfering, or meddlesome can have you seeing red, but, by not reacting, you stand a good chance of at least minimizing their behavior.
Busting the Holiday Blues
If the holidays are a sad time because a loved one can't be there, then discover a personal strategy for coping with you loss. Volunteering for a local charity is a way to take the attention off yourself and place it on someone else. You'll feel empowered, and the experience of helping others gives you to a positive holiday memory to hold on to.
Military Families and Holiday Stress
If your loved one is in the military the holidays can be a difficult time for the entire family. Soldiers miss being with their families, and their parents, spouses and children have to try to carry on without them. The key to dealing with the separation is managing expectations. That means before reporting for duty, discussing how you'll celebrate the holiday. Will the family at home have a regular holiday meal, will the person in the military be calling home, or will the family Skype them. They need to talk about the fact that it won't be a normal holiday with dad or mom being away but that it doesn't mean that can't celebrate together is some way.
Accept that Holiday Traditions can Change
Activities and you once looked forward to may no longer be enjoyable. And if that's the case, stop doing them and develop some new traditions. Doing what we love is always less stressful than doing something that we dislike. You'd likely be surprised to learn that your family would be thrilled to do some things differently.
Signs that You're Stressed
· Increased use of Alcohol to Cope (Note that Alcohol is a depressant and can increase a person's feelings of sadness)
· Trouble Sleeping
· Being sad or irritable and having frequent mood fluctuations
When Stress Gets You Down
Be careful not to overindulge. Overeating or drinking too much will only add to feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed.
· Slow Down and…
· Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
· Learn to say No, friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity.
· Be sure you're eating healthfully
*When to See a Doctor*
· If you experience persistent sadness, anxiousness, or a feeling of hopelessness,
· Have physical complaints that don't improve,
· Can't sleep, are irritable and have difficulty doing routine chores;
· If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Robert Lagrou D.O. is the medical director for inpatient psychiatry at Henry Ford Health System. Dr. Lagrou is double board certified in both General and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has been an active member of the Michigan Army National Guard where he has served as the Chief Behavioral Health Officer for the past 6 years, in addition, to serving one tour in Iraq in 2011. His academic interests include pediatric bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders, and the affect of military deployment on children and families. He is a graduated of Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Michigan.