Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Coping with Holiday Stress

Would you believe it is not so much money, family or time that stresses me out this time of year? Instead I am tormented by all the edible goodies. Everywhere I look there is some yummy morsel calling my name. I swear I hear the truffles using both my first and middle name to get my attention. As if the smell alone wasn’t enough.

Coping skills that actually address the problem are considered most effective for relieving stress. Actions taken toward removing obstacles, restraint and self-control are just some examples.

I ask my husband to keep the cookies at work and hide any treats he may bring home. The kids have Advent Calendars and would know if I snuck (stole) a precious itsy bitsy piece of chocolate. So, I’m pretty safe at home. Action to remove the cause of my stress effective! “Out of sight out of mind.”

Then I went to my book club and the coffee table was piled high with cookies, cake and chocolate candy. I swiftly switched to restraint mode! But the act of restraining was causing me more stress – this coping skill was proving ineffective. I would have to switch to an emotion based coping method before I could take effective action.

Coping skills that do not necessarily address the problem but reduce the stress are considered emotion based. I could distract myself by actually being fully present to the book discussion. I could also find some humor in the situation. Or I could completely deny my weakness as well as my adrenalin rush.

I t was easier than you might think. I leaned over to my friends and declared the chocolate sitting in front of me was talking louder than all the rest of them put together. We all laughed. I ate one and in my best Scarlett O’Hara impersonation said, “Please, take them away.” As I sighed with relief I was joined by a chorus of sighs. What do you know, I wasn’t the only one stressing out about that darn chocolate.

Have you ever considered how many different coping mechanisms you use in any given day? There are many causes of stress and many ways to cope. Some more effective than others. The same ones don’t work every time. Knowing varying forms of healthy coping mechanisms can save you unwanted wrinkles and possibly your life. Even the sharing of learned coping skills with others is often beneficial.

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