Managing Holiday Stress

Jerry Daskosk's image of a young lady in meditationThe holiday season can be one of joy and excitement. Houses donned in lights, boisterous music and ornamental trees definitely help with bringing cheer for the “most wonderful time of the year.” However, while many look forward to the pleasures of family, food and gifts, there is one element of this time year that is not enjoyable: STRESS.

Stress during the holidays can be brought on by a number of things, from pressure to spend large amounts of money on presents, last minute shopping, or preparing to host a large party. Likewise, for individuals dealing with loss of a loved one, the absence of that person, or lack of family in general, can very well trigger stressful emotions among other things. While, for some the solution is throwing in the towel and opting to avoid the holiday entirely, experts suggest that such does not really deal with the problem. Instead, it benefits individuals more to craft ways to cope with holiday stress, and better deal with other areas of their life as well.

One such way of doing so is through mindfulness. The concept of mindfulness includes being aware of situations and allowing oneself to feel the range of emotions and deal with them in the moment as a means of therapy. Here are some ways mindfulness can play a role in managing stress during this time of year:

Be Present
Far too many adults worry about things that haven’t yet occurred or issues which they imagine will happen as a result of a given action. To remain stress-free, it’s important to focus on what’s happening in the moment and what you can control at that time. Concerns about whether someone will like the gifts you bought, whether you should’ve added more sugar to the cake, or if you will get along well with family should be disregarded for the now. Deal with issues as they come, but every facet of the moments you’re in now.

Be Kind To Yourself
Self care is sometimes neglected during this time in which selflessness is celebrated. However it’s extremely important to maintain positive thoughts about yourself and do things that bring you pleasure. They could be as simple is buying a gift for yourself or going to the spa. Regardless of how it is achieved, the reality is that one can’t truly care for others without caring for himself first.

Focus on the Experiences
Not to be confused with being present, this concept is about choosing to put emphasis on the experiences one has with family or acquaintances as opposed to looking for value in gifts or the lack thereof. Using the season as a way of connecting with others rather acquiring or purchasing things can cause a big difference in mood. Furthermore, being able to recall those happy moments can alleviate stress in the future.

At the end of everything, be sure to give yourself time to rest, think and recover from all that transpired. Clear your calendar, find a quiet place or calming music and allow yourself to truly be mindful and restful. This is a great tip for any time of the year, but especially after high-strung moments as this time of year can be.

Bullying Has Significant Impact on Mental Health

Jerry Daskoski's image of a girl being bulliedBullying in schools has gotten a lot of attention over the last couple years. Part of that is due to the advent of technology and the ability to bully from virtually anywhere, at any time, with a much larger scope and possibly less consequences than one would have inside a classroom. Still, for many detractors, it’s just an example of kids being kids, at best, and at worst, the need for recipients of the behavior to toughen up. After all, we’ve all been bullied or know someone who was, and that they turned out “ok;” yet research suggests that may not be true.

In a study conducted by National Children’s Bureau and YoungMinds, victims revealed that not only did bullying have a significant impact on their mental health, with regard to depression, anxiety and varied emotions like anger and rage, for many, the effects remained long after school. Nearly half (46%) of those polled said that they experienced low self-esteem throughout their lives, with some of them remarking that bullying made it noticeably more difficult for them to develop personal relationships with others.

Among the most surprising and equally saddening findings of the study is that over one-third of participants avoided going to college or continuing their education as a result of and to avoid bullying. Such significant life-altering decisions are likely not considered by perpetrators or those who defend them. Not going to college, as we know, could determine one’s economic status and overall success in today’s society. Therefore, depression as a result of not being able to access certain levels of income or career goals could be considered a byproduct of behavior like body shaming or abuse because of sexual preference and/or expression.

For those perceived to have the power to quell these types of behavior, school teachers, majority of them have stated that these expectations are not reality. 70% of the teachers surveyed said there is not adequate support for victims of bullying, and that many of them were not at all trained to deal with bullies nor to support victims. Instead, school counselors are expected to provide support to these kids, but they do not interface with children as nearly as often, meaning relationships are not as strong and children may not confide in them when situations arise. Furthermore, counselors may be outnumbered by the volume of kids who need help at a given time.

This study was released by Anti-Bullying Alliance in partnership with Barclays, to mark the beginning of anti-bullying week. This information, while informative, is just information unless systems are put in place to provide more training for teachers, parents and even family doctors (92% of whom expressed having no formal training in dealing with bullied victims) to properly address this issue. If ignored, the effects could be damaging for far too many people, even unto suicide or worse. There is a lot of work to do; this information and groups like the Anti-Bullying Alliance are a good start.

The Efficacy of Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); it’s a therapeutic approach that is able to be applied to a wide selection of problems, making it a very popular course of treatment for issues such as anxiety disorders, general stress, substance abuse and addiction, and eating disorders.

Developed by Aaron Beck, CBT is defined as the expansion of the scope of behavior therapy to include cognition and research on human information processing, and it includes various techniques. Some argue cognitive therapy’s efficacy lies in the treatments open-endedness, as the course of the therapy is catered to the individual.

Jerry Daskoski

One psychotherapy technique it emphasizes, called collaborative empiricism, involves challenging negative cognitive distortions, which is a procedure in which the therapist conjures up a hypothesis and then assists the patient in testing the validity of that hypothesis.

Rational-emotive therapy, another CBT technique developed by Albert Ellis, is used as a treatment for anxiety and depression, and was designed to challenge irrational beliefs about oneself and the world.

Perhaps the most crucial component of CBT treatment is something called the transference relationship. It is the way in which the patient behaves toward the therapist in which it is believed to reflect early primary relationships. This is used to increase patients ability to experience themselves and other people in a more realistic and integrated way.

Because CBT caters to those receiving treatment on an individual-level, the success of the transference relationship is so important because, essentially, the client and clinician are creating the treatment path together.

Since cognitive therapy can be applied to problems on such a broad spectrum, it’s arguably the most studied course of treatment. Evidence is strong for the efficacy of CBT, specifically in treating anxiety disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Like most, if not all, psychotherapy treatments, more extensive literature and research is necessary to gaining a stronger grasp on it’s efficacy, despite the enormous evidence base pointing to CBT’s success. However, CBT comes at a cost, a high one, and thus it has not been adopted as a first-line intervention for mental disorders for many countries, including many developed nations.