Counselor says managing expectations can limit holiday stress

A Columbia social worker said set aside some time for yourself and don't worry about people's opinions of your holiday efforts. (MGN Online)

A licensed social worker on Friday said make sure to carve out some time for yourself during the holiday season.

Jessica Tappana said people often put pressure on themselves to find the perfect gift or avoid spending too much. Perhaps there is a family member they don't get along with who they must now spend time with. Tappana said the holidays can be especially stressful for people with mental health issues. For example, people living with social anxiety disorder might find the prospect of going to a holiday party or visiting relatives frightening.

"The biggest advice I normally give a client is, let's double down on self-care," she said.

If you're nervous about holiday parties, Tappana suggests finding out in advance who will be there or planning out things to talk about. If travel might disrupt a regular exercise routine, find a way to work it in. She said some of the biggest sources of holiday stress are so-called thinking errors. An example is all-or-nothing thinking such as feeling pressured to attend every holiday party you're invited to. Tappana said not to worry about what other people think of the gifts you buy, the outfits you choose or the parties you host. In many cases, she said they're too preoccupied with their own holiday anxieties.

"It's almost without fail that people are not judging you nearly as harshly as you're judging yourself," she said.

Tappana said counselors don't see as many clients around the holidays but calls for help increase once the season passes.

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