Seminar Provides Tips on Coping with Holiday Stress
By Mika Ono
"Stress becomes a very relevant topic around the holidays,"
says Jan Hill, director of the Counseling and Postdoctoral
Services Department of The Scripps Research Institute. "And
this year the fires seemed to kick off the season early."
On December 8, clinical psychologist Martin Cary shared
his insights into the topic with Scripps Research employees
as part of the institute's ongoing Lunch and Learn seminar
What is stress?
According to Cary, stress is situated at the intersection
of external forcessuch as physical danger, time pressure,
and negative family interactionsand a person's reaction
to themwhich can include feelings of unhappiness and
irritability and physical symptoms such as sleeplessness,
stomach upset, and high blood pressure.
Notable stressors include death of a loved one, divorce,
menopause, unemployment, a major illness, time in jailand,
yes, the holidays.
"How you manage stressors is the mediating factor in how
you experience stress," says Cary. "The key is to develop
a healthy coping style."
Cary's tips on coping include:
- Fostering realistic expectations. "High achievers especially
need to work on this," Cary noted. "Ask yourself, 'Is it
really reasonable to expect never to indulge in rich food
over the holidays?' 'Is my 'to do' list too long?'"
- Exercise. Study after study has shown that exercise elevates
- Avoidance. Take a day off when you need a break.
- Make use of distractions. "Do the things you enjoybe
it going to the movies, sewing, or socializing."
- Stay on a regular schedule. Sticking to a routine can
help minimize stress.
- Relax. Cary recommends deep breathing, progressive muscle
relaxation, yoga, meditation, or any other technique that
produces positive physiological changes.
"Relaxation is like anything else," he says. "The more you
do it, the easier it is."
key is to develop a healthy coping style."