Holiday stress? The doctor is in to help!

David Ventola

The holiday season should be a wonderful time but for many it’s a time of increased pressures and stress. Whether it’s parties, shopping, baking or traveling to be with family, most people feel some type of pressure during the holidays.

Dr. Dave Ventola a Clinician with Southwest Behavioral & Health Services joined me on Valley Views to offer some practical advice for keeping holiday stress in check. In addition, we talked about managing underage drinking and New Year’s Eve as it seems this time of year always seems to present so many opportunities, temptations and even pressures for kids to drink. 

Acknowledge your feelings. Sometimes the holidays are a reminder of unpleasant memories. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.

Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

 Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Managing Underage Drinking and New Year’s Eve

Discuss Alcohol Safety and tell your teen that you would rather he/she not drink. This should always be your primary message as underage drinking is not only illegal, it’s not healthy for your teenager’s still developing brain.

It is possible for your teenager to go to a party and NOT drink, but it’s tough. Teenagers are wired to be influenced by their peers. So, when they’re surrounded by friends who are drinking, it’s only realistic to expect they will too. Ask your teenager to consider going to a party with a like-minded friend (who also does not want to drink)—or help your teenager brainstorm ways to refuse a drink from a persuasive peer.

Unfortunately, we can tell our teenagers until we’re blue in the face that we don’t want them to drink. But we need to accept they may go ahead and have a drink anyway. The bottom line: we want them to be safe if they do. Remind them of the dangers of binge drinking. Binge drinking is consuming five (for boys) or four (for girls) drinks in two hours—and its impact on your teenager’s health is vastly different than nursing a single beer all evening long. Binge drinking—which 20 percent of teenagers in a recent study said they did—not only leads to extremely poor decision making (about driving, sex, and other risky activities), it can cause alcohol poisoning, which is life threatening.

Tell you teen that they should never—and we mean never—drive under the influence . . . or get into a car driven by someone under the influence. The good news is that drinking and driving among teenagers has dropped a lot over the past decade. A big thank you to companies like Uber and Lyft.

Meanwhile, if you do have an adolescent or younger teenager, then don’t allow him or her to attend parties where alcohol may be present. Period. Adolescence is a time when the parts of the brain that are particularly sensitive to recreational drugs are still developing and alcohol permanently changes the structure of an adolescent’s brain.

Be a good role model.

Here is my conversation with Dr David Ventola

Marty Manning

Marty Manning

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