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Give your well-being a gift this holiday season

By April Schulte-Barclay Monday, December 12, 2016

You have a choice this holiday season. You can choose to allow the hustle and bustle, commercialism, stress, and sometimes profound grief in wishing for what once was to swallow you whole.

Or you can choose to sit back, take a deep breath, enjoy the sounds and sights of the season and relish what the holidays mean to you.

Sounds simple, right? Actually, it may be just that simple to choose the latter, especially if you use some helpful self-awareness and grounding techniques.

Mental health counselor Leslie S. Kittel says the holiday season can be depicted as “a magical time of twinkling lights, gingerbread houses, carolers singing, grandma’s cookies and eggnog, people giving — all portrayed as the most wonderful time of the year!”

Even though the holidays can be a joyous and exciting time of year, they can also be a burden. The holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people. Many people feel a great amount of stress, anxiety and worry while trying to create the perfect holiday.

Those of us who experience social anxiety are bombarded with situations that toss us into a sea of people — parties, shopping for gifts, family get-togethers.

Many people leave home to spend the holidays elsewhere, and the simple fact of being out of their familiar environment can be stressful.

Not all family members get along, so sometimes just sharing the same space with an estranged person can wreak havoc.

Then there are those of us within our community who are mourning the loss of a loved one, trying to keep our head above water, grabbing on to anyone or anything to simply survive another difficult day.

If you are looking around wondering what there is to be cheerful about, know that you are not alone.

A recent Stress in America survey — commissioned each year by the America Psychological Association — showed that 24 percent of adults report extreme stress, and more than one-third of adults report that their stress increased over the past year.

Such stress can ultimately trigger physical problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression, cancer, lung ailments, rash, digestive trouble and a weakened immune system.

One of Kittel’s favorite descriptions of such chronic extreme stress is that it causes “general erosion of spirit.”

Kittel suggests that this holiday season could serve as an opportunity to enhance our psychological, physical and spiritual well-being. With some helpful tools and some guidance, achieving this worthy goal becomes much more plausible.

Learning and understanding the dynamics of primary coping skills allows a person to reach within and self-direct, thus achieving a healthier and more fulfilling holiday season and life.

The reality is that we all get tossed around in life and we all form defenses, which are molded by our environment.

However, it is common to become stuck in learned thinking and behavior patterns that no longer serve us. Breaking those patterns is key to moving forward in one’s life and in finding peace and meaning in the holiday season.


WHAT: Stress-management seminar

WHEN: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday

WHERE: Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions, 2139 N. 12th St., No. 7

COST: $5 per person

DETAILS: The seminar, taught by mental health counselor Leslie S. Kittel and titled “Healthy Coping Strategies to Help Manage the Holiday Season,” will include a variety of coping tools to help us get through difficult times — skills that can give us an important break from mental and emotional distress and, at times, literally can be life-saving.

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