UNT psychologist advises following the ABCs to handle holiday stress

Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 19:55

Family, finances and travel can make December the most stressful time of the year for many.

According to Joshua Hook, associate professor of psychology at the University of North Texas, following the ABCs can help people cope with holiday stress in a positive way.

Acceptance — Thinking that you'll have zero stress during the holiday season will probably disappoint you, Hook says. Instead, recognize that certain family members frustrate you, and weather delays while traveling can't be controlled. "Accept that some stress is inevitable, and work on your capacity to handle a certain level," he says.

Boundaries — Set limits with others so you can "take care of yourself and get your needs met," Hook says. Those boundaries can include limited times for visits at family members' homes, or, if you're traveling to see them, staying in a hotel instead of in their home.

When it comes to discussing politics with relatives and friends who have different opinions, Hook suggests shifting conversations from partisanship to policy.

"Most of the time when we talk about politics, we are talking about being liberal or conservative and Republican or Democrat; and what is terrible about the other side and what politician on the other side you hate the most," he says. "When someone brings up politics, immediately shift the conversation."

If someone expresses, for example, hatred for the new GOP tax plan, "you might say something like 'Yeah, taxes is a complex policy issue isn’t it? What do you think are the key factors to a tax plan that is most fair to everyone?'" Hook says.

If someone says he or she hates a certain elected official, acknowledge that politics brings up strong feelings, and ask the person his or her opinion on which policy issues would improve the U.S. or the state or community, Hook says.

●Coping — When you're feeling stress, do activities to take care of yourself even when you're not keeping your regular routine, Hook says. For example, if you exercise regularly, exercise even when you're away from home, talk with a friend about your stress, or find time to read, pray, meditate or write your thoughts in a journal.

Read more advice from Hook here.




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