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Managing Stress This Holiday Season

For many, the holiday season is a time for great joy, celebration, and closeness with loved ones. However, with high expectations, emotional triggers, difficult family dynamics, financial burden, and a seeming scarcity of time, the season can also beget a troubling abundance of stress. Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania (LCL) explains, “It is common to feel the pressure of overwhelming stress, depression, and loneliness during this time of year.”

A 2022 poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) revealed that nearly a third of Americans reported anticipating feeling more stressed that holiday season than even the year prior. APA President Rebecca W. Brendel, M.D., J.D. explained, “This is a busy time of year for many people, and it’s common to put a lot of expectations on ourselves during the holidays.”

However, the APA offers a few methods for coping with elevated stress throughout the holiday season:

  • Practice mindfulness and meditation. Anyone can take simple, practical steps toward protecting his or her own mental health and well-being. Mindfulness and grounding techniques help to reconnect to a feeling of stability and awareness.
  • Prevent burnout and say “no” when needed. It’s OK to say “no” to events and activities that cause undue stress. Focus on goal feelings for the season rather than a perfunctory checklist of undertakings. The APA offers a commonplace example: “It might be nice to make your grandmother's cookie recipe from scratch for every holiday, but if that's stressful for you, buy cookies at the store and celebrate.” Additionally, avoiding individuals or circumstances that have repeatedly produced mistreatment is not only ok ΜΆ it’s healthy.
  • Take breaks. Treat the holiday season as a marathon or, better yet, a relay. Take breaks and accept help from those around you.
  • Get fresh air and sunlight. Even small doses of fresh air and sunlight help to relax and calm. Myriad studies have correlated mental health benefits with spending time in nature.
  • Keep any regularly-scheduled therapy sessions. For those who attend therapy, keep scheduled appointments. Sessions not only boost comforting structure and routine but also can address difficult emotions tied to the season or challenging personal interactions that may arise.
  • Honor grief and loss. The winter holidays often are tied to strong memories, and many may struggle as they mourn a lost loved one (or even an experience of the past). Many psychiatrists recommend honoring cherished memories and celebrating those who have been lost rather than suppressing feelings of grief.
  • Budget and avoid overspending. It is no surprise that financial burden is one of the most common stressors and is often exacerbated during the holiday season. Take time to budget for gift giving, holiday meals, and special events. Focus on presence and affection and consider incorporating homemade gifts or “Secret Santa” in holiday giving.

The Mayo Clinic Health System also suggests that maintaining healthy routines (e.g., sleep, movement, and nutrition) and being realistic with yourself and others can support your mental health and well-being during this season of cheer (and sometimes drear).

The Disciplinary Board would like to remind all PA lawyers that, even during the holidays, LCL is available to support the legal community through their free and confidential services. Their confidential helpline is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at (888) 999-1941.

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