A stressful time: Holidays can take their toll on personal well being

December 2011 Posted in Your Health

By Kristine ThomasSue Benner is a licensed WellCoach at Wellspring Fitness at Woodburn Health Center.

At an athletic event in late November, several women lamented the upcoming holiday season.

“All I am looking forward to is the week after Christmas when everything is done and I can relax,” one woman said, adding she dreaded the additional responsibilities and expectations of the holiday season.

Her confession garnered nods of agreement.

Thoughts of circling the mall for a parking spot, searching for gifts, waiting in long lines, addressing holiday cards, decorating the tree and house and creating holiday meals can cause many women to “stress out.”

The holidays don’t have to be this way, said Sue Benner and Darlene Jost Babin, who work for Silverton Health.  It’s your choice whether the holidays are a stressful or joyful time, they said.

They encourage women to give themselves a gift this holiday season by slowing down, understanding what makes them happy and being grateful.

“Live in the moment and savor the moments in your life,” Benner said.

Take Charge of Your Health
A series for women presented by Silverton Health
Visit: www.silvertonhealth.org/takecharge
for times, days and locations.

January –  Nutrition and Fitness

February –  Women’s heart health
and stress management

March –  Digestive health

April –  Peri-menopause/menopause
and sexual health

May –  Diabetes prevention and
healthy Mexican-style cooking

June –  Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Benner, who has her master’s degree, is a Certified Wellcoach and manager of Wellspring Fitness at Woodburn Health Center. Her experience includes teaching fitness classes, training and mentoring. Her background gives her an understanding of the power of choice as it relates to healthy living. Jost Babin is a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor who has worked for Silverton Health since 2008. She works to elicit from her patients the insight and confidence needed for significant life changes.

Both women made a presentation in November called “Journey to Joy” as part of the Take Charge of Your Health series for women presented by Silverton Health.

Take a happiness inventory

Benner and Jost Babin advise women to take an inventory of their life and decide what brings them happiness during the holiday season. Once they’ve decided what makes them happy, find ways to make choices that bring them joy every day, they said.

Jost Babin suggests beginning by asking “What is the point of the holidays?”

“The first thing I ask women to do is to make a list of what makes them happy and what is important to them,” she said.

If there is a “tradition” you detest, don’t continue it, Jost Babin adding “Keep the traditions that are important.”

Too many women believe the holidays are a time for perfection, they said. And striving for perfection can cause people to feel overwhelmed or depressed.

“Do you want to be perfect or happy?” Benner asked. “I encourage women to ask themselves who they are living their life for.”

“Give yourself the gift of being who you are and doing what makes you happy,” Jost Babin said.

By being present in the moment, people are more aware of what’s happening around them, they said.

Instead of sitting on the couch absorbing what’s on the television, think about what you are hearing and seeing, Benner said.

“If you are watching a program and it makes you feel anxious or crummy, turn it off,” Benner said.

Another mistake women make is trying to make everyone around them happy or to keep the peace, they said.

What they need to realize is the only person they can control is themselves, Jost Babin said, adding “when you change yourself, there is a shift of everyone around you.”

“One person can make a difference in a group of people,” Jost Babin said. “If you are stressing out, that will spread to others. We are all interconnected.”

“Women are not responsible for everyone else’s needs,” Benner added. “People need to take responsibility for their own happiness. Teaching others to take responsibility for their own life is a gift.”

Jost Babin had a client who found it a struggle to get her family to go to events with her during the holidays. The client decided she was no longer going to try to coordinate her family’s schedules or argue with them about who was doing what. Instead, she made a calendar and listed the events she was going to do – get a tree, go to a concert, go to church…

“The woman asked her family to put their name down for the events they wanted to participate in,” Jost Babin said. “She found it empowering.”

To stress or not to stress

Jost Babin said our brain is constantly telling us if we are feeling stressed. “We may feel exhausted or aches and pains in our body,” she said. “Stress can deplete your energy and lead to other health problems.”

One way to deal with stress is to live in the moment, Benner and Jost Babin agreed.

When you are baking cookies with your children, focus just on that task. “This is a perfect time of the year to practice mindfulness,” Benner said, “by being engaged in what you are doing.”

Benner and Jost Babin encourage women to not to try to be Super Woman.

When feeling overwhelmed with a long to do list or pending deadlines, try to divide the list into what you can get done at this moment. By committing to small daily choices it is much more doable than asking yourself to do everything all at once, they said.

They also encourage women to enlist the help of their family and relatives to prepare the holiday meal, wrap presents and other tasks.

Realizing many women have a difficult time saying “no,” Benner encourages them to say what they can do.

Instead of saying “yes,” to making the entire Christmas dinner, say you can make the turkey and ask family to make the other dishes, they suggested.

By everyone collaborating, it divides the work and makes it easier on everyone, Jost Babin said.

Realizing life isn’t perfect and bad things will happen, Benner and Jost Babin said people have a choice on how they deal with it.

“There is a lesson to be learned from every thing,” Benner said.

Stress can lead to bad habits, including overeating or being too tired to exercise. Benner encourages women to take the time to exercise, sleep and eat healthy. “Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to stop exercising or eating poorly,” she said.

When feeling overwhelmed, Benner suggests spending time writing down three things are grateful for. “It makes you appreciate what you have in life,” she said.

Jost Babin encourages women to ask for help if they are feeling overwhelmed by stress or depression – both of which can take a toll on the body.

Small gifts

Ever notice how you feel when you do something nice for someone else? Whether it’s opening a door for a stranger who has an armload of packages at the post office or giving a compliment, you can make a difference in someone’s day and your own.

By giving love and of your time to family and friends, and being kind to yourself, you can make the holidays a joyful time, Benner said.

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