Workforce Wellness – Bon Secours


’Tis the Season for Stress

By Ebony S. Canady, LCSW

It’s the holiday season.

If simply reading those words puts your stomach in a knot, sit down and take a deep breath. There are valid reasons why you might be feeling anxious over the holidays.

This is the time of year when people are reminded how much they miss someone who’s died. It’s when people think about broken relationships or how much money they don’t really have to spend on gifts. For some, it’s knowing they have to work on Christmas and need to find child care. For others, it’s living too far away to celebrate with the people they love. And then there’s the extra work involved. Decorating. Shopping. Cooking.

“This is truly the most stressful time of the year,” said Ebony S. Canady, LCSW, who counsels people through Bon Secours Hampton Roads Employee Assistance Program. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.”

The first step to handling all of this stress is to remember what the season is all about, Canady said. She recommends the following additional strategies for everyone to help manage holiday stress and enjoy this time of year:

  • Practice mindfulness. Think about what causes your stress during the holidays and take steps to change things. Remember that the holidays only last one or two days and it’s not worth it to stress all month long. Ask yourself what the things are that you do appreciate about this time of year. Be grateful for all that is good in your life. And when it comes to family tension, resist the urge to bring up the past or to expect too much from others.
  • Set a budget and stick to it. Don’t overspend on food, decorations, and gifts. Ending the holiday season in debt can cause stress for months.
  • Simplify. If cooking and baking is too stressful, let someone else do it. “No one said you have to cook the holiday dinner,” Canady said. “You can go out to dinner or buy prepared food.” Have a simple meal instead of a giant spread. “Make your holiday what you want it to be,” Canady said.
  • Lower your expectations. Few family holidays look like the ones you see on a greeting card. “Higher expectations can lead to a world of disappointment and stress,” Canady said.
  • Acknowledge grief. Spending the holidays without someone you love is tough. It’s easy to want to stay isolated, but it’s much healthier to be around other people and talk about those you miss. “It’s good to laugh and cry together,” Canady said. “The more you try to avoid grieving, the worse you’ll feel about it.”
  • Take care of yourself. Eating lots of sugary foods and drinking alcohol can make people feel worse during the holidays. Keep up with your exercise routine, indulge in moderation, and make sure to get enough sleep.
  • Volunteer. If you don’t feel like celebrating or you don’t have somewhere to go, sign up to volunteer at a local church or soup kitchen, Canady said. “Being there to help someone else have a better day will ultimately improve your day.”

For more information or to find a healthcare provider near you, call 804-359-WELL or visit



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