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Monday, Nov. 23, 2015

Healthy Holiday

Taking control to avoid stress of the season

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Taking control to avoid stress of the season

The holiday season can be filled with excitement and joy. But, the high energy of this time of year can also lead to stress for many. Don’t bottle up your anxiety; instead, be open about your feelings to best handle this time of year.

“You have to take care of you,” Leigh Peregoy, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Bossier City, said.

Peregoy said eating right, getting enough rest and exercising are key components for mental health all the time but especially during the holiday season. She stressed the importance of making these three components a habit, not just something you do every now and then.

Peregoy also said if your family causes you to feel stressed, you may need to examine your family. If a particular relative stresses you out, it may be beneficial to limit your time with him or her.

“If someone makes you upset, you don’t have to be around them,” she said.

Gift giving is a staple for this time of year, but it can also lead to financial and mental anxiety. Peregoy stressed the importance of developing a budget and living within your means.

“Be practical with your spending,” she said, “Be practical about gifts.” She said when she ended the Santa tradition with her two adult daughters, she worked to be more realistic about presents. She also started a tradition of giving back, including her daughters in the process.

“We buy stuff that we don’t need or the other person doesn’t need just to buy something for them. Give to others that don’t have as much as we do. I taught my daughters to do things for others so they know it’s not all about me,” she said.

She said they made giving to the Salvation Army via the Angel Tree program a new holiday tradition. The Angel Tree program allows people to buy holiday presents, including toys, clothing and special-needs gifts, to underprivileged children. You can pick up a child’s wish list from an Angel Tree at a variety of locations, including Mall St. Vincent and Louisiana State University in Shreveport.

Self-care can also be a helpful means of handling stress during the season. Peregoy recommended getting a massage, taking a walk in the woods or along a quiet street and spending time outdoors.

“It helps us to clear our mind and destress,” she said.

In addition to stress, the holidays can lead to grief for those that have recently lost a loved one. Leigh Peregoy: Therapy for Adults on Old Minden Road specializes in grief therapy.

“Grief is a big issue at the holidays. The time of the year is really bad; it’s all about family and traditions. When it comes to Christmas, [families dealing with a loss] want to know what they’re supposed to do,” she said.

She said though this time of the year is difficult for anyone who recently lost a loved one, it is especially difficult for parents mourning the loss of a child. Peregoy has treated over 400 parents who have lost children.

“If a family lost a child, trying to be honest about their feelings is important,” she said, stressing that families may need to change up their holiday staples to deal with their grief. She said if a family is not ready to celebrate Christmas in a large, group setting, it may be more beneficial to have a small get-together at home. Or, taking a trip could be a healthy alternative.

“Let people know what to expect from them. They may not be in the holiday spirit. The reminders are everywhere. They need to take care of themselves, too, and speak up for their needs,” she said.

Overall, though, it is key to remember what is really important during this busy season.

“We have to get our priorities straight,” she said, “Deal with what you have to deal with, and let the rest go. What can we let go of? What can I control in my life? Me.” Though it can be difficult, it is possible to control our own emotions, she said. Taking control of ourselves, emotions, thoughts and actions can actually be the most beneficial way to handle the not-so-happy emotions during this traditionally joyful season.

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