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Managing holiday stress

individual stressed out

The American Psychological Association has conducted a nationwide survey in its Mind/Body campaign since 2007. The focus is to examine the state of stress nationwide and understand its impact. The study in 2023 indicated that 55% of Americans are stressed during the day. Managing stress can help emotionally, physically, socially, and mentally. Sometimes, the holiday season adds a little extra stress because we might have to pay attention to more responsibilities, such as seasonal deadlines, packed schedules, dreading specific functions, and extra financial burdens.

Michelle Grocke, Ph.D. Health & Wellness Specialist MSU talks about Positive Ways to Manage Stress

Here are a few coping strategies to get you started:

Time management- Life is complicated enough, and one way to manage stress is to manage your time. Finding a balance between work, education, pleasure, and social time is necessary. Only add a task to your calendar if you can devote time to completing it. Commit to "fun" time. Make time for activities that you enjoy. Devote time to a task. Think about focusing on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is no longer the buzzword. When we switch back and forth between tasks, we lose something in between. It doesn't hurt to organize your environment. Minimize distractions and maximize your focus. You might have to change where you work, study, or do another task. Utilize friends, family, and pets to help you stay on task.

Exercise- We have often heard that physical activity is one of the best stress management methods. Two stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, can harm us if we are under pressure for a long time. Increasing your heart rate helps improve blood flow and heart health. If you are new to starting an exercise program, check with your doctor first for ideas on where to begin. Think of ways to insert movement into your day, whether going for a walk with a friend instead of having dinner or stretching while you stand at the copier.

Relax and Breath-Building relaxation into your day can be one of the most productive things you can do to help yourself. There are many approaches you can take to relax. Mindfulness is a meditation in which you focus on being aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment. How one practices mindfulness can involve breathing methods, guided imagery, and other techniques to relax the body and mind. As we say, relax and breathe.

Nutrition- A balanced diet can support a healthy immune system and provide the extra energy needed to cope with stressful events. A busy lifestyle sometimes interferes with proper meal selection, so planning is essential. Identify a specific day of the week to plan your menu. Prepare your meals and think about storage. In addition, think about your alcohol and caffeine intake. Alcohol is a depressant that makes you feel relaxed in the short term. Caffeine can elevate cortisol levels and trigger our stress response. The FDA recommends consuming no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day.

Quality Sleep- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives a recommended amount of sleep based on age. The amount of sleep you get is significant, but sleep quality contributes to your health and well-being. Here are a few tips for improving your sleep habits: going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time; Making sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and the temperature is comfortable; Remove electronic devices; Avoid large meals and too much caffeine and alcohol; exercise during the day because physical activity helps you fall asleep easier.

Talking to others- Research from UCLA suggests that putting your feelings into words called "affect labeling" can diminish the amygdala's response when encountering upsetting things. Writing or discussing experiences can positively impact one's health and immune system. When we hold back thoughts and emotions, it can be stressful. You have negative feelings either way, but it works when you repress them, which affects the brain and body. Remember that meditating on the negatives or consistently focusing on and discussing negative experiences can be highly damaging. Talking about stressors and focusing on things that make you grateful is essential. For every negative thought, you need to have five positive ones. Think about looking at or catching those joyous moments. Whether you keep a grateful journal stockpile of happy memories, make sure you intentionally see the positives and talk about those as well.

Consider these approaches and how you can better handle your stress during the holiday season.


Tessa Hobbs-Curley is considerate about the people of west-central Illinois. She feels that her role as a family life educator serving Henderson, Knox, McDonough, and Warren counties is vital to the residents in her community. Tessa provides community-based training and education on life issues affecting families, adults, and individuals as they age. 

Tessa is a firm believer that her work in the human development field for the past 25 years makes an impact. She believes lifelong success starts with social and emotional learning and she centers her work around this philosophy. Tessa is excited to serve as a coach for the Illinois Strong Couples project which promotes the essential skills to maintain a strong relationship.