Management session helps alleviate pressures

Tips to ease stress levels around holidays shared

By Jessica Suico, Advocate Staff

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Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand and can be caused by both good and bad experiences.

For many students the holiday season is full of stress-triggering events, from dealing with family, travel plans and finals.

Dealing with stress from daily life and in the months during the holiday season was addressed during the Holiday Stress Management workshop in SBC-104 on Nov. 2.

Contra Costa College counselor and workshop proctor Monica Nolasco said, “When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into your bloodstream.”

Nolasco said, stress and depression can ruin people’s holidays.

It also hurts mental and physical health if the person is stressed out for long periods of time by pressuring the brain to enter into “fight or flight” mode.

Being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help keep the person dealing with the situation away from reaching high levels of stress and depression, Nolasco said.

During the holiday season, the demands of attending parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and hosting guests go up, and so do stress levels.

Undecided major Misha Palmes said, “The holidays are teaching me how to deal with the grief of losing my mom eight years ago because my mom and I always spent the holidays together.

“Since she’s been gone, I get depressed around the holiday season but I’m teaching myself to enjoy the holidays and teaching my children to do the same even though we’re having a hard time.”

Palmes said she was at the workshop to learn different ways to help her bring down her stress levels.

She also hoped to find a way to maintain those low levels of stress or anxious energy throughout the holiday season.

Nolasco said holiday stress and depression can be prevented by acknowledging negative feelings.

“Realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief if someone close has recently passed or you can’t be with your loved ones,” she said.

Nolasco said long-term physical stress can lead to suppressed immune system, insomnia and increased blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

There are many techniques used to manage stress such as writing in a journal, taking a walk, listening to music or meditation.

Seek help from friends if feelings of isolation set in, Nolasco said friends can offer support and companionship. Volunteering time to help others is a good way to lift spirits and meet new people.

Nolasco said the holidays don’t have to be perfect or “just like last year” because as families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well.

Choose a few to hold onto, and be open to creating new ones, Nolasco said.

Sociology and business major Tiana McKneely said the things that stress her out most are, “exams, school and my kids.”

She said she tries to prioritize and plan each day out so she doesn’t forget to do anything or stress about what needs to be accomplished for the day.

Nolasco said, “Try to set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are even if they don’t live up to all your expectations.”

Set aside grievances until more time for discussion.

Also, be more understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry, she said.

“Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression.”

Nolasco said the percentage of stress broken into categories is 22 percent self-stress expectations, 13 percent money, shopping, commercialization, 65 percent is from family and in-laws.

Some signs  of stress that are common across all demographics are the inability to sleep, persistent headaches, trouble sitting still, sweating and dry mouth.

Nolasco said those who are easily stressed should take a breather, and take some time for themselves.

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