How to cope

Five strategies for coping with the pressure of the holidays

December 22, 2010

Here are five ways to avoid a fractious Christmas with family and friends, courtesy of Hinda Dubin, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

1. "Be pro-active. Plan your coping strategy. If the conversation becomes too intense, this would be a good time to excuse myself and go to my room. Maybe I have to check on my e-mail once a day. Sometimes it's good to have a book that you can immerse yourself in, or a piece of relaxing music."

2. "Coping cards work for some people. What I recommend is for people to write themselves little notes that keep them cheerful and upbeat, and they can look at them without being so obvious that they are looking at a coping card. They might have a novel, and glued to one page inside, a paper that says: 'You're doing a great job.' 'Have a nice time with your family.' 'Holidays can be stressful.' 'Keep smiling.' Whatever the message is. [It's] a way to give yourself the encouragement when you need it."

3. "Walks are always great. When you are in a family setting, even if there are some people you have difficult times with, there must be some people you get along with. You could say, 'Hey, would you like to go out for a walk with me?' Or there might be a pet that you really like, and when you need a timeout, you can take the dog for a walk or spend some time with a pet."

4. "Meditation is a good thing. Before you get tense and stressed, just sit down for several minutes and think positive, relaxing thoughts."

5. "Have realistic expectations. We're human, and while we strive for perfection, we also have to know that it's not actually attainable."

Chris Kaltenbach

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