Are you feeling stressed this holiday season?

Are you feeling stressed about this holiday season?

By: Shelly Qualtieri MA, BA

 Here we are at that time of year again, the Christmas season is right upon us. Along with the joy, excitement, presents, meals, and holiday fun that so many look forward to it is also a time for others to feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, stressed, and the financial strains of the holiday season.

I imagine in Alberta, at this time of the year and this year in particular there are many more people than the average struggling with holiday stress. Right now; with the economic climate in Alberta and the financial strain individuals and families in our province are feeling this holiday season it is a good opportunity to talk about holiday stress. What does stress look like? How does it impact us? And how can we cope and support others in our lives?

Stress can be good and stress can be bad. Stress is your body's response to a perceived or real threat; it is something we all have, something we all feel, and something most of us what to know how to manage. So, what is stress? We can understand stress to be our own personal reaction to a situation and not necessarily the situation itself. Stress is a complex reaction that arises in situations where individuals believe that the demands they face are greater than their ability to be able to handle or manage those demands.

When an individual is feeling stressed there are often signs and symptoms of stress, these feelings can be seen as: feeling overwhelmed, anxious, procrastination, or isolation in personal or professional lives. Stress has significant impacts on our bodies and can impact us:

·         Cognitively: Our short and long term memory is impacted.

·         Behaviourally: Individuals may begin to isolate, procrastinate, or turn to drugs / alcohol, or gambling to cope.

·         Physiologically: Individuals can feel tired, drained, frequently get sick, and often complain of headaches.

·         Emotionally:  Individuals can feel a sense of failure, feelings of self-doubt, helplessness and hopelessness, or feeling defeated.

·         Relationship impacts: Stressed not only has an impact on the individual but it also increases stress on our relationships. Stress can lead to increased arguments, violence, and rage.

We also know that with a significant increase in stress, one can have thoughts of suicide (see the article, The Red Flags of Suicide, Shelly Qualtieri for more on this topic). In our current Alberta economy, and the media publishing statistics of approximately 17,000 layoffs(mainly in the oil and gas industry and a high proportion of males) across the province, with a 30% increase in the suicides in our province in the first half of 2015, the stress these individuals and families will be feeling is clear and intensifies even further at this time of the year.

This leads us to managing stress. How can you manage stress and figure out what your stressors are? Take a couple of moments out of your day to consider what some of the triggers in your life may be. Could it be: holiday stress, family strain, the loss of a job, financial pressure, loss of a loved one? Once stressors or triggers have been identified you can take these steps to begin to manage your stress: When you are aware of your stress and triggers you can work towards being proactive at managing your stress.

·         Troubleshoot,

·         Look for patterns in your triggers / stress across time,

·         Start working toward change by establishing small goals and take small steps,

·         Reward yourself for the small moments that you are successful,

·         Spend time with family and friends, or other supports,

·         Talk about what is happening for you,

·         Seek our supports and resources

The Christmas season can have its challenges however; limit what you set for yourself to do, remain active, healthy, and speak out in your times of stress.

A reminder; this time of the year is stressful, no one can eliminate all stress from their life or prevent all stress from occurring in the future however; with stress management tools, work-life balance, and supportive resources you can begin seek the support you require. Here are a few resources you can use if you're feeling overwhelmed:

·         The Calgary Distress Centre – 403.266.HELP (4357),

·         The Good Food Box, Calgary – 403.275.0258,

·         Community Resources: 2 – 1 -1:

·         Heads Up Guys:

·         Man Therapy: