Got Holiday Stress? - Student Health Center

People with stressed faces.Ways to Handle Holiday Pressure and Not Stress Out

Well, here we are, the Winter Holidays are upon us. And, what do the end of the semester, and the holidays have in common?


As much as we want to have fun with the festivities, friends/relatives we've not seen for a long time, vacations which have been planned for sometime, we must prepare now with a positive outlook, and a flexible attitude.

Here's how:

Use Your Body as a Signal

Recognize your signs of stress.

Stop, Look and Listen

Take a moment to slow down and do a check-in with your self:

  • What are you telling yourself? (Is your self-talk positive? Are you predicting success or disaster?)
  • How are you feeling? Mad, Sad, Glad or Scared? With whom can you safely share your feelings?
  • Remember the added pressure of the season…if you have lost a loved one, moved away from family, or have had other losses/changes you are more vulnerable to stressors. Plan a way to get support and not shoulder loss alone.

Learn to Relax

  1. Stop what you are doing. Clear your lap and place both feet on the floor.
  2. Place one hand lightly on your stomach. Imagine that favorite place where you would really like to be this minute. (Did you know that just the simple act of visualization will slow your heart rate down? It's a mini vacation you can take without going anywhere.)
  3. OK. Now, gaze down or close your eyes, and take a deep breath from your diaphragm. (You will know you are breathing from your diaphragm because your hand will feel your belly expand and release and your shoulders will be still.)
  4. Repeat this 3 times. Nice and easy, deep, slow breathes, inhaling through your nose and exhaling out through your mouth. Let distracting thoughts slip away and just pay attention to your breath.
  5. Feel relaxed? Make a practice of relaxing and quieting yourself.

Laugh More

No kidding. Laughter, like deep breathing, is our natural antidote to stress. It triggers positive biochemical changes in the body and mind. It lowers blood pressure, increases and oxygenates blood flow. And it's contagious, and when people are laughing with you, who can be stressed?

Watch Expectations

Unrealistic expectations get us in trouble.

  • Ask for what you want (don't expect anyone to read your mind), and let go of the outcome.
  • Be creative, challenge the old traditions and do something different this holiday season.
  • Plan ahead. Allow extra time for everything, rushing will only make you blood pressure rise.
  • Limit your social engagements and choose how you want to spend your time and with whom.

Know Your Limits

  • Know when to say yes and when to say no.
  • "Under Promise and Over Deliver." (Agree to do only what you can realistically manage. Then, if you are able to deliver more than what's expected, you shine! You'll feel good about yourself and others will take notice.)

Time Management - Self Management

The truth is, there is enough time. The trick is in managing ourselves.

  • Become friends with self-discipline.
  • Prioritize. Do what needs to be done first and complete it. Move on to the next thing.
  • Schedule a break and take it. Stretch, go outside, and drink some water. Smile and say hello to someone. Give yourself a change of scene. You will be refreshed.
  • Set a timer for 20 minute work spurts. Know your best work routine and follow that…not someone else's.
  • Plan to be 10 minutes early to every meeting/class tomorrow, enjoy bliss and reward of extra time and good self-management skills.

Setbacks Happen

  • Face the setbacks with style and grace and you will enjoy yourself more and stress less. (And those around you will be positively influenced as well.)
  • We can't control other people. We can choose our response. Notice if you are stirring the pot with your thoughts and reactions, and then decide how you want to turn yourself around and be "drama-free".
  • Respond rather than react.

Get Support

  • Write down the names of at least three people you can call for help, brainstorming, a positive word. Call them and ask if they will be on call.
  • Spend less time with those negative people who rain on your parade or put you down.
  • Ask for help.
  • Expand your circle of those friends who energize you and nurture your spirit.
  • Give to someone else. Kindness is a spirit booster.
  • Treat yourself well with kind words, good nourishment, plenty of sleep and exercise.

Happy Holidays
To You!

Rosemary O'Neill, MA, MFT
Personal Counseling Services
Ohlone College Student Health Center

In a Crisis and Need Help?

Call a crisis support hotline (see Crisis Resources) or go to your local hospital emergency room.