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How you and your Teen can Stress Less this Holiday Season

holiday health holiday stress teens thanksgiving Nov 21, 2018

It feels like just yesterday I was sitting on the bay of the river, toes in sand, watching the fireworks above me. Today, I’m sitting on the living room floor, toes wrapped in wool socks, watching my teens argue over what pie we should have and tossing around ornaments for a tree that won’t up be up for another few weeks.

Yep, the holiday season is upon us. This truly is my favorite time of year where we celebrate family, friends, tradition, and spirit. Yet, all too often, we stumble and trip through the season only to begin the new year overwhelmed and exhausted. And, it’s not just you.

The American Psychological Association conducted a survey that found that adolescents and young adults report the highest level of stress among all ages. When their holiday overwhelm is paired with other seasonal stressors such as fewer hours of daylight, changes in routines, holiday guests, academic workload, finals, college applications and more, they return to the daily grind feeling not just depleted but depressed or anxiety.

So, what can you do to help your teen (and you) stress less this holiday season?  

  1. Calm your mind first. The next time you feel your stress level rising, pause and take a deep breath. To bring a sense of peace. One of my favorite breathing techniques is 4-7-8 breathing. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Then take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in. Now, hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7. Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8. Repeat as many times as needed.
  2. Pay attention to the daily “MEDS".  Your daily “MEDS” include meditation, exercise, diet, and sleep. A good rule of thumb is 10 minutes of meditation, 20 minutes of exercise, balanced meals (fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins and lots of water), and 8 hours of sleep each night. Giving these four areas regular attention can help regulate your teen’s (and your) mood.
  3. Plan ahead. Planning boils down to communication. Keep the lines of communication open by setting aside time to share what the holiday commitments are so that you can.
  4. Be realistic. This goes hand-in-hand with planning. Encourage your teen to take a realistic glance at all their commitments to see what realistically can be committed to. Pro-tip: Schedule your MEDS first followed by other mandatory commitments (school, homework, work, practices) and then, if there is time, social activities.
  5. Set aside differences. Whether you aren’t in favor of your teen’s sense of style or you are wrestling with lifestyle decisions, now is the time to set them aside. Unless your teen is engaging in risky and dangerous behavior, table your differences and resume them after the holidays when emotions aren’t running as high.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can motivate us to work harder and be more efficient.  However, prolonged stress can have a negative impact on both your and your teen’s physical and emotional wellbeing. And, just because Thanksgiving is a day of celebration doesn’t mean that everyone feels joyful. If you notice either of you continuing to feel overwhelmed with stress, sadness or anxiety beyond the holiday season, please seek the support of a mental health professional.

Peace & holiday health,

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