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Fredrickson: Remember to practice self-care this holiday season

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.  

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

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Of course, for all the wonders of the holiday season, it can also be a very stressful time of the year for many people. Between planning festivities, dealing with family, the constant presence of holiday cookies, and the disruption of the college lifestyle, it can cause college students especially a lot of tension. The American Psychological Association has acknowledged the reality of holiday stress for more than a decade.

So as students prepare to go home for winter break, it’s important for them to remember to practice self-care and look after themselves this break.

The most common negative emotions during the holiday season are fatigue, stress, irritability, and bloating, according to the APA. It can be caused by a pressure to buy gifts, a lack of money, and the stressors of family.

Many psychological professionals have recommendations for dealing with these kinds of stressors. I am very close to my family, but it can still be tough to move back in with my parents temporarily. I’m so used to independence that I find myself getting annoyed. No matter how much we love our families, such a concentrated amount of family time can be a little trying. Sometimes it helps to get out of the house. Going to read a book or binge-watch all of Stranger Things at a coffee shop can provide a needed respite from family. Bonus self-care points if that coffee shop is a cat café, because cat purring is good for stress.

Not everybody has as great a family as I do. For people in more toxic family environments, getting out of the house is even more important. Finding things to do can help with that – many gift-giving organizations need drivers to deliver donated presents; local food banks often need volunteers over the holiday season. Finding a philanthropic activity can help soothe frayed nerves.

It’s important to try to keep as much normal rhythm in day-to-day life as possible. For instance, people who exercise daily shouldn’t stop exercising over break, because abruptly stopping regular exercise can cause stress, as can the abundance of unhealthy holiday foods. Even people who don’t exercise as regularly should consider regular walks, as exercise is an effective way to deal with stress in general; regularly taking walks or buying a day pass to a gym can help calm the stress of the holiday season.

These are general tips for common stressors, but the bottom line is that the holiday situation is unique to every person. Thinking ahead of time about what the stressors are likely to be and coming up with ways to manage them can be the most effective stress relief technique of all. Making a list of likely forms of stress and ways to handle it can provide relief now and when the stress begins.

The most important thing about the holiday season is to remember that it’s not just about gift-giving to others. Everyone needs to remember to put themselves on the Christmas list, and take time to look after themselves. However they do it, whatever that means to them, self-care is important and should not be neglected in the spirit of the holiday season.

Michelle Fredrickson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @mfredrickson42

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