Holiday high anxiety

Local experts’ advice on how to avoid falling into the frenzy

The year-end swirl of holiday activities can become a vortex that engulfs the unwary, leaving them drained of energy, strained financially and pained emotionally, counselors and therapists say.

“People tend to pack too much travel, family gatherings, addressing Christmas cards, parties and shopping into this period,” said Nicola St. Mary, a naturopathic practitioner in Durango. “There is so much pressure they lose sight of the real meaning of the season.”

Jenny Treanor, a licensed professional counselor who coordinates the employee-assistance program at Mercy Regional Medical Center, said:

“We do too much, we spend too much, we party too much. There are very few families that look and act like the ones in the greeting-card commercials.”

Janet Curry, a licensed professional counselor who founded Stillpoint Counseling & Mindfulness Training in Durango, said people get caught up in the expectations of the holidays.

Curry, whose treatments focus on being aware of the present moment, said:

“Expectations are self-imposed. Stop and observe what you’re experiencing. Find what you can let go of.”

She stopped sending Christmas cards years ago to instead send Easter cards when times are less hectic.

St. Mary, with Pura Vida Natural Healthcare, said limiting activities and being judicious about accepting invitations reduces stress.

“You don’t have to go to all events,” she said. “Pick and choose. Go to one or two.”

Avoid stimulants such as sugary treats and coffee, St. Mary said. An abundance of vitamin C is needed because stress depletes it, she said.

St. Mary suggested taking herbal teas that combat stress and boost the immune system.

“It’s impossible to avoid stress in the modern world,” St. Mary said. “But you do have some control over how you respond to it and, therefore, how it impacts your physical health.”

Treanor said being on the run constantly leads to burnout.

“Slow down and commit to what is most meaningful for you,” Treanor said. “I take time to send Christmas cards because that’s what is meaningful to me.

“Strike a balance between activity and quiet time,” Treanor said. “Relax your standards of excellence and accept ‘good enough.’”

Looking out for No. 1 regularly is important, Treanor said.

“Leave a few minutes at the end of the day for yourself,” she said. “Solitude is soothing.”

Curry recommends staying tuned to the current moment.

“A lot of us tend to go unconscious on Dec. 1 and wake up Jan. 2,” Curry said. Stay aware, keep in touch with yourself and don’t overdo it.

“On the nuts-and-bolts level, you have a tool available to intercept stress – breathing,” Curry said. “It’s portable, and it’s cheap.”

Take five deep breaths. It actually relieves stress, Curry said.

“With the unpredictable, ever-changing nature of the world never more apparent than it is today, many of us are experiencing stress on an unprecedented scale,” Curry said. “Exploring ways to cope more skillfully is not only proactive but also wise.”