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Social Distancing and Mental Health

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Social distancing, the practice of avoiding large groups and close contact with others to protect the spread of disease to vulnerable groups, has become a commonly used phrase during the COVID-19 pandemic. With so much extra time spent at home, some may find themselves anxious and/or restless. While we may miss a lot from being out and about or adhering to our typical daily routines, being at home does not need to be so painfully dull.

First and foremost, electrical lighting has been shown to disrupt one’s natural rhythms, as opposed to natural light (Heid). Stepping out into the sunlight, even in the backyard, helps regulate one’s mood, energy, appetite, and sleep schedule by alerting the body it is no longer time to be groggy and asleep. In addition to meditation, spending time in greenery relaxes one’s mind and restores a sense of focus (Heid).

Additionally, distracting oneself with artistic activities or calling friends, as well as sticking to a temporary at-home routine reduces anxiety and establishes some degree of normalcy during these times (Ao). Personal connections do not need to suffer due to social distancing; checking up on friends is not a bad idea when considering they are likely just as restless as you!

Keeping up with one’s wellness and mindfulness aids immensely in making this situation at least a little bit more bearable. Taking extra measures to ensure you are getting proper amounts of sunlight, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, keeping busy, and keeping track of basic needs is crucial even when stuck at home for extended periods of time. Social distancing does not have to take away from social needs as well. Contacting friends and family members from home regularly is a healthy habit to pick up right now. And, of course, stay safe, and wash your hands!


References

Ao, Bethany. “Social Distancing Can Strain Mental Health. Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC, 23 Mar. 2020, www.inquirer.com/health/
coronavirus/coronavirus-
mental-health-social-distancing-20200319.html
.

Heid, Markham. “You Asked: Is It Bad to Be Inside All Day?” Time, 27 Apr. 2016, time.com/4306455/stress-relief-nature

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Hakomi: Deepening

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Once a client gets into a state of mindfulness through accessing, the objective is to stabilize and deepen that mindful state and utilize it for accessing core material. Building an alliance, relaxing control, and increasing feelings of safety will assist the client in retrieving material generally outside their awareness. The therapist and client are both involved in a conscious dialogue, as well as an unconscious one (Fisher, 2002; Kurtz, 1990).

To deepen the experience requires asking more precise questions. For example, if an answer to a question in the form of a probe was, ‘My face tingles,’ then a deepening question might be, ‘Which side of your face tingles more?’ Please note that the therapist does not necessarily need to know the answer to this question as it is simply a technique for deepening and stabilizing a state of mindfulness. It’s a useful way to make contact and two or three of these types of questions might be enough for a client to be able to go deeper with their experience (Kurtz, 1990).

A client often tends to go back and forth between mindfulness and ordinary consciousness. To avoid that, ask the client to stay with their present experience and avoid opening their eyes. With deepening, a client might initially only be mindful of trivialities, like about sensations in their body. It’s important to ask deepening questions about those sensations so that the client can get to the feelings underlying those sensations. “The overall shift in the course of deepening is from (1) thoughts and ideas, to (2) images, sensations and tensions, to (3) feelings, and finally to (4) whole memories, experiences and insights” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 122). Overall, the shift is from local tensions, sensations, and feelings to more whole-body experiences (Kurtz, 1990).

As the therapist works with a client, it’s valuable for them to ask what the missing experience is for the client. For example, what emotional needs did they not get met as a child? The missing experience is generally a variation of “being loved, accepted, heard and seen, valued, or acknowledged. By arranging for the missing experience to occur in therapy, the beliefs surrounding it are clarified, explored and challenged” (Fisher, 2002, p. 62). While someone often longs for this experience, they can still be very resistant to it (Fisher, 2002).

Sometimes clients won’t be able to stay in a state of mindfulness because they may be too tense, nervous or anxious. Then it’s important to talk about safety issues and find ways of reducing the tension. If that doesn’t work, then the client may need something else entirely, such as bodywork, a vacation, dietary changes, etc. before they are ready for Hakomi (Kurtz, 1990).

In deepening, there are four basic steps: (1) Contacting experience; (2) Adding mindfulness; (3) Immersion in the experience (for example, if a client feels sad then we want them to feel that sadness fully and attentively); and (4) Studying the subtle aspects of the experience or letting the experience elicit other related experiences. (Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015).

The therapist uses “contact to focus, mindfulness to recognize, and immersion to stabilize.” These Hakomi techniques can help a client study their experiences and, therefore, gain clarity “to access their organizational core” (Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015, p. 177). When one gets to the core, then the accessing and deepening is done and they can move to the next stage of Hakomi: processing (Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015).


References

Fisher, R. (2002). Experiential Psychotherapy with Couples: A Guide for the Creative Pragmatist. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.

Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015). Accessing and Deepening. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 295-299). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

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Managing Anxiety Amid a Pandemic

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

It’s only natural for people to be on edge when news of a pandemic hits. While, for many, this can call for an increase in sanitary measures and caution, focusing excessively on anything is never a good thing. Widespread media coverage can easily cause fear and stress in anyone, so it is important to maintain levelheadedness. There are many ways to combat anxiety amid an outbreak.

First, ensure you are mindful of your exposure to the news. The media tends to bring about an increased amount of fear and negativity. Stay informed on the situation, but make sure you are consuming trusted news sources without bingeing on every single news report. Too much news exposure can make the threat appear worse than it is instead of containing it (Degges-White).

When too much focus is placed on the future, our present selves suffer. Especially if you have kids, managing your own anxiety can help immensely in reducing their fears. Children can easily pick up on signs of distress. Normalizing their fears and reassuring them that you can handle the issue can help ease their fears (Moukaddam). Educating your children on hygiene, proper preventative measures, and the spread of germs is crucial during these times.

Getting news of disease outbreaks is never a pleasant experience. Issues like these are not always the most straightforward situations to handle. Controlling your media intake and reassuring yourself and your family is imperative to handling stress and anxiety. Above all else, stay calm and take care of yourself!


References

Degges-White, Suzanne. “COVID-19 Anxiety: Control Your Controllables.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 5 Mar. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/lifetime-connections/202003/covid-19-anxiety-control-your-controllables.

Moukaddam, Nidal. “Fears, Outbreaks, and Pandemics: Lessons Learned.” Psychiatric Times, 15 Nov. 2019, www.psychiatrictimes.com/anxiety/fears-outbreaks-and-pandemics-lessons-learned.

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How to Overcome Social Isolation

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

The winter months can be difficult to get through for many people. It’s typically cold, and there are not many hours of daylight. We may not want to go outside and are more likely to isolate ourselves, which can negatively affect our mood.

One of the most common symptoms of anxiety and depression that I have seen is social isolation. There are many reasons we may isolate ourselves. We might feel like it will take too much effort and that we don’t have enough energy to be around others. We might not want to burden other people with our emotions, or maybe we have developed some social anxiety and don’t feel comfortable interacting with others. Whatever the reason, social isolation is not a helpful strategy to combat a depressed mood or anxiety.

Healthy isolation, also known as solitude, is not the same as purposeful social isolation. Sometimes we need time alone to help reset and clear our minds, or we seek solitude as part of a spiritual experience. We may also need time alone to collect our thoughts and gain clarity about our feelings and what is happening in our lives.

Social isolation, on the other hand, is defined as being alone without any social interactions and can come from feelings of shame and depression. Social anxiety or fears of abandonment can also lead someone to isolate themselves from others. If I person has not developed deep, personal relationships with other people, they are more likely to experience social isolation.

Sometimes isolation is out of our hands, but it can also be something we create for ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously. To have more health and happiness, it is important to find a good balance of solitude and time socializing.

If social isolation is affecting your mood and your life negatively, here are some guidelines for climbing out of it.

  1. When you are invited to do something with family or friends, make your best effort to accept the invitation and follow through with your plans. Try not to cancel the plans once you have agreed to go out with them. 
  2. Figure out how many times a week is feasible for you to make plans with a friend or family member, and make it a weekly goal to see them. Once a week is a fairly reasonable goal for most people.
  3. Try joining a weekly activity where you will meet other people with similar interests. This could include a sports league, a class, such as a fitness class or art class, or a Meetup group.
  4. Get out of the house once a day to take a walk or do errands, and try to interact with at least one person while out. Dogs are also great companions and can help you interact with others.
  5. Join a support group and attend meetings once a week. This could include a social skills group or a social anxiety group.
  6. Work with your therapist on what feelings come up for you when you feel like isolating yourself. They can also help you replace your need for isolation with a healthy coping strategy, which could also combat your anxiety and depression.

References

Good Therapy (n.d.). (20 August 2018). Isolation. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/isolation.

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What is Your Attachment Style?

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Attachment plays a prominent role in the way we as individuals form relationships throughout life. This especially affects the way we perceive conflict and get our needs met. There are four styles of attachment, each unique in many ways: secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful. Discovering your own style of attachment is a useful way to develop and strengthen relationships.

Unsure what attachment style you possess? These descriptions may help you identify and learn about your own attachment style. 

Those with secure attachment styles, for starters, are both comfortable with being alone and affectionate at different times (Manson). This is the most common type and is beneficial for family, friends, and significant others. 

Those who are anxiously attached, however, tend to seek out emotional bonds and cling to their partner. Their fears are often affirmed by their partner’s independent actions, such as spending extra time with friends (Firestone). 

Avoidant individuals, however, are far more comfortable with independence and display noncommittal patterns (Firestone). People with this style of attachment may avoid showing emotional reactions when confronted. 

Lastly, the fearful type (otherwise known as “anxious-avoidant”) is closely linked to the latter two types. Individuals with this type of attachment are apprehensive toward intimacy and do not easily trust people who attempt to bond with them (Manson).

Although these attachment styles form at a very young age, they are still capable of changing. While the initial base is formed by one’s relationship with their parents and their home situation as a child, the function or lack of function in future relationships influence attachment styles considerably. 

Avoidant attachment types are formed when only partial care is given at a young age (e.g. being fed often, but not held often) and anxious attachment types are formed by uncertain levels of love and care (Manson). Fearful types can arise from a complete lack of care during infancy (Firestone). 

When the negative aspects of these types are not properly addressed, toxic relationships easily form. However, an avoidant or anxiously attached person may find themselves feeling more secure when presented with a long-term healthy relationship (Manson). The opposite can happen for a securely attached person when faced with severely difficult obstacles in life, such as death or divorce.

While maintaining healthy relationships may prove challenging for those who have struggled in the past, positive bonds are absolutely possible when proper care is given to those who need it. 

With increased awareness of one’s own attachment style, can come the ability to identify what needs to stay or change in a relationship to enhance the well-being of each partner. However pained one’s past may be, there are always patient and caring people willing to help their companion bond. Relationships are an essential piece of one’s wellness.


References

“Laughter Therapy as Stress Relief.” SkillsYouNeed, SkillsYouNeed.com, 2019, http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/therapeutic-laughter.html.

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Hakomi: Accessing

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

“Gaining access is the process that unlocks the path to information not otherwise available” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 115). Accessing techniques and mindfulness are used in helping a client shift “from ordinary consciousness to mindfulness” or to the child state of consciousness (p. 115). In special or altered states of consciousness like mindfulness, the therapy process deepens by accessing core material, such as “beliefs, habits and memories that motivate and organize the client’s reactions” (p. 115). This material is not accessible within ordinary consciousness.

There are numerous ways to access altered states of consciousness, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, hypnosis, music and so on. Mindfulness is a way of focusing “on internal signals while lowering the noise” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 117). It includes a state of relaxation and involves removing outer or inner distractions that people ordinarily use as ways to avoid uncomfortable feelings (Kurtz, 1990, p. 166). Mindfulness is a present-moment experience as one cannot be mindful of the past or future. It involves shifting one’s attention away from a superficial discussion of one’s experience to a direct exploration of the present-time experience.

“The mindful qualities of slowing down, letting go of agendas, becoming open, receptive, exploratory, and befriending experience, as opposed to changing it, allow us to be present to immediate, felt experience in a way that opens a place of mysterious not-knowing, making the discovery of new material possible (Gaskin, Cole & Eisman, 2015, p. 163-164). To help people heal requires assisting them in entering one of these altered, special states. Once that state is accessed, then the client can process whatever comes up for them. Through mindfulness or accessing the witness state, they can notice how they are being impacted by what comes up for them. (Kurtz, 1990)

There are four principles related to accessing: safety, present experience, going slow, and nonviolence.

Safety

It is essential to hold a safe space for whoever one is working with. If a client doesn’t feel safe, then they won’t drop their external awareness. They won’t be trusting enough to go within. If accessing is a challenge for someone then asking them what needs to happen in order for them to feel safe could be helpful. Also, letting go of any need to get any particular response from a client is a requirement for the therapist. It is crucial to be accepting, loving and nonjudgmental. Clients do not need techniques that are insulting or deliberately create pain; they already have enough pain to deal with (Kurtz, 1990).

Present time experience

Present time experience is the second principle of accessing. This means helping a client to experience core material as a “felt reality, not as theory” (p. 119). Felt reality includes feelings, thoughts, moods and muscle tension as they are experienced right now.

It is important for the therapist to avoid following a client’s tendency to tell stories about their past, theorize and so on. The clinician needs to step out of the mode of polite, ordinary conversation, even if it seems interesting, and bring the client back to their concrete, present-time experience. This could involve asking for precise information regarding what is happening in the now. “For example, if someone says she’s sad, don’t ask what the sadness is about” as that leads to explanations but rather ask “‘What kind of sadness is it!’” (p. 119). This way, a client can go right back into her sadness more deeply and “with that search comes memories and finally, beliefs” (p. 119). “If the client is sad, we want her to feel that grief deeply, purely, attentively” (Gaskin, Cole & Eisman, 2015, p. 168). In nearly any moment, a clinician can ask a question that will redirect a client toward her present experience. The clinician will become “a psychological Aikido master” whenever they can take anything a client does or says and bring it back to present experience (Kurtz, 1990, p. 119).

Going Slowly

Awareness happens for the client at a slower speed. It’s important for the therapist to ask for information with sensitivity and respect, in ways that convey to a client that there is plenty of time. When the therapist slows down then they invite the client to go slow. “The tone of voice, the speed at which you talk, the gentleness with which you move” says to a client that it is safe for them to take their time and go within (Kurtz, 1990, p. 120).

Nonviolence

Nonviolence involves working gently with kindness and compassion, avoiding triggering defenses. If the client doesn’t feel entirely safe, then they will leave their inward experience and go outward to deal with the therapist. There are many, often subtler, levels of violence in psychotherapy including judgements, advice, plans, exclusivity and arrogance, all of which will trigger the defenses of a client. Being more inclusive and empowering the client to go wherever they need to go with their process, without feeling compelled to change them, helps provide them with the kind of support and acceptance they need (Kurtz, 1990).

During this whole accessing process, it is important to track the client’s signals regarding where they want to go and to make contact via contact statements (Kurtz, 1990). Additionally, the client’s body language, such as their tone of voice, rapidity of breath, facial expressions and key words, can reveal their core narrative traits (Kurtz & Prestera, 1984).


References

Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015). Accessing and Deepening. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 295-299). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Kurtz, R. S. & Prestera, H. (1984). The Body Reveals. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

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Play and Child Development

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

As many people are now aware, recess and physical education in schools have been greatly reduced in recent years to the detriment of children. Play is an important part of human development and can teach children important skills that they can carry into adulthood. Many of the developmental milestones of school-age children can be accomplished through play and interacting with peers. With more research and more acceptance of this need, I am hopeful that more schools will increase the amount of time school-age children have in their daily schedule for play.

Once children reach elementary school, they have gained stronger and smoother gross motor skills, such as running or standing. They also continue to develop their fine motor skills, which include skills such as grasping or holding small objects. Activities on the playground can help further develop and strengthen these skills. They can participate more regularly in some of these activities and develop mastery over their skills. In addition to developing these physical skills, children at this age require a minimum of one hour of physical activity every day.

Academic achievement is a major focus for school-age children. In early elementary school, children’s curriculum focuses on learning the fundamentals. Around third grade, the curriculum evolves to focus more on finding content in the material presented to them. In addition to these important academic milestones, children begin to increase their ability to focus for longer periods; however, many children need active breaks between long periods of focused attention. By age 6, children should be able to focus for up to 15 minutes at a time. Having a shorter attention span at this age points to the fact that they should be moving around more and physically interacting with their environment. Their brains are not developed enough at this age to focus on something uninterrupted for longer periods. By age 9, children are able to focus for up to an hour but still need play breaks throughout their school day as well.

Another reason to increase play is to help children further develop the social skills required for developing close peer relationships and learning about societal norms and expectations. At this age, children are also likely to test these expectations and may start lying, cheating or stealing. Learning the rules of our society on the playground at this age will be a much safer place to learn the consequences of these actions, instead of learning them as an adult when the consequences are much harsher and more serious. Children need to gain feedback from peers and this can happen more readily on a playground at school.

Most importantly, mixing active play into a person’s day has also shown to increase productivity, even in adults. A recent study has shown that playing a collaborative game can increase productivity by 20 percent. The reasons for this include an increase in creativity, encouraging teamwork, teaching individuals how to set common goals for all those involved, and helping people relax and “blow of steam.” Play has many benefits that will carry into adulthood, such as increased learning capacity. For this reason, play needs to continue to be a constant part of a child’s school day.


References

Brower, T. (3 March 2019). Boost Productivity 20%: The Surprising Power of Play. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2019/03/03/boost-productivity-20-the-surprising-power-of-play/#bffc7197c05b

School-age children development. (n.d.) In MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002017.htm

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Laughter as Medicine

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Is laughter the best medicine? Whoever could have created this proverb may have been onto something. Everyone enjoys a good laugh, whether from a joke or sheer happiness. Research has found that it may have benefits other than simply entertainment. Laughing is a lighthearted way to reduce stress levels, among several other benefits.

Laughter is a natural way of producing endorphins, which act like hormonal painkillers, and can increase one’s pain threshold by up to 10 perfect (but don’t test it!). It also provides good exercise and reduces the risk of respiratory infections. What’s more, laughter can lower blood pressure and stress hormones, as well as to reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Dr. Hunter (Patch) Adams, the founder of the Gesundheit Institute, initiated the creation of numerous care clowns whose mission is to bring love and laughter back into hospital environments. Laughter is attainable for everyone. Being able to laugh frequently does not mean one has to be happy all the time; that’s impossible. When stressed or upset, hearing a well-rounded joke or viewing a particularly amusing Internet meme is the way to go.

In short, laughter has not only mental but also physical benefits. It is just another source of simple happiness capable of leading to a happier life. Wellness does not have to be so serious all of the time; an amusing break from the daily grind we all go through will do anyone good. Life is not always a drama — there’s plenty of comedy too!

How many psychotherapists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one, so long as the lightbulb wants to change.


References

“Laughter Therapy as Stress Relief.” SkillsYouNeed, SkillsYouNeed.com, 2019, http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/therapeutic-laughter.html.

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Hakomi: Taking Over

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Taking over is a Hakomi intervention technique, developed by the creator of Hakomi Ron Kurtz, where the therapist assumes there is inherent wisdom in a client’s defenses and helps out by “taking over” for her what she is already doing (Barstow & Johanson, 2015; Lavie, 2015).

Normally this is done in a state of mindfulness, except for the times when riding the rapids to support spontaneous behavior (Barstow & Johanson, 2015; Kurtz, 1990). Through this technique, the therapist assists the client by “making the work of self-discovery easier, safer and clearer” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 104).

As Kurtz began adapting his approach to therapy from earlier training in bioenergetics and Gestalt, among other modalities, he realized the importance of experimenting with mindfulness and supporting, rather than resisting, a client’s defenses (Lavie, 2015). When an “offer to take over is accepted,” a lot of the effort is taken out, lowering the noise and bringing blocked feelings into awareness (p. 102).

If a client responds to a probe with an inner voice, then the therapist can take over the voice and vocalize it for a client. Taking over can accomplish several things: 1) supporting a need for safety; 2) lowering the noise, thus increasing sensitivity; 3) creating distance as well as control of reactions; 4) supporting the healing relationship; 5) shifting awareness from defensiveness to the underlying “feelings, impulses, images and memories being defended against” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 102).

For example, if the client shares the thought, “I won’t cry,” the therapist can then ask the client to relax and notice what occurs for them when the therapist repeats the phrase out loud for them with a similar volume, intensity, and tone (Kurtz, 1990; Lavie, 2015).

Taking over occurred once with a woman who did a workshop with Kurtz. The woman’s daughter had been assaulted by a stranger in their home, and the daughter would stare at the door in her room and could not sleep at night. The mother tried to reassure her to no avail, so she finally said that she would watch the door and sit there all night without going away. Eventually, the daughter closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep. The mother’s statement, “I’ll watch the door for you” is a good example of “taking over” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 110).


References

Barstow, C. & Johanson, G. (2015). Glossary of Hakomi Therapy Terms. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 295-299). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Lavie, S. (2015). Experiments in Mindfulness. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 178-193). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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How to Minimize Stress and Master the Holidays

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

It goes without saying that the holidays are a busy time. In addition to typical daily life, there’s partying, traveling, spending, socializing, and the list goes on. Many would say the chaos of it all is worth it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to minimize the stress and relax. Whether it means reducing or increasing one’s social interactions, there are ways to feel fulfilled rather than drained by the time New Year’s comes around.

Firstly, what exactly are your sources of holiday stress? One source may be simpler than you’d think: doing too much. Yes, it’s obvious, but let me explain. Naturally, when met with a rather exciting or interesting activity, we often opt to participate in it. While doing good and fun things are, well, good and fun, having too many good things going on can lead to stress and a lack of time to decompress.

Another stressor may be the overwhelming obligations and the temptation to overindulge, such as excessive eating, drinking, and spending. Too much of any of these things could lead to debt, weight gain, or embarrassing memories.

Furthermore, balancing alone time with together time becomes significantly more difficult for many during the holidays. Family time is a wonderful thing, but being around others for too long without proper rest takes some of the enjoyment out of being with loved ones.

On the other side are those who are not with family during the holidays. While many are getting together with those they love, some might become more aware of their loneliness and feel left out.

During this time of year, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may occur. While it can come on subtly with the season’s transition from fall to winter, more time spent indoors because of colder weather brings out this form of depression, invoking seemingly sudden bursts of unhappiness and/or stress.

Despite these concerns, there are still ways to be on top of one’s mental health during this time of year. Here are some useful tricks for mastering the holidays, stress-free:

Keep a Journal

Keep a journal, or at least write things down, an age-old trick to maintain healthy stress levels. Keeping track of finances, plans, and obligations is a surefire way to stop stress dead in its tracks.

Remain Disciplined

Remaining disciplined is key to mastering holiday overindulgence. Remind yourself not to have eggnog and cookies with every meal. This saves us from guilty feelings later on. There is nothing wrong with saying “no” to tentative plans or an extra drink. Staying fit and leaving space for alone time is worth it in the long run.

Balance is Key

Being burnt out halfway through December sucks, even if it means sacrificing potential plans with friends and family. They can wait for another day. No one is fun to be around when they are tired or stressed. Besides, spending a day during the holidays to curl up with a warm blanket and a book is a fun idea in itself.


References

Scott, Elizabeth. “How to Manage the Inevitable Holiday Season Stress.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 24 June 2019, www.verywellmind.com/understanding-and-managing-holiday-stress-3145230.

“6 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress.” Healthline, Healthline, www.healthline.com/health/holiday-stress#tips.

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