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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Holiday stress preventable with the right approach

    It’s the time of year notorious for big family meals, lots of travel and gift giving – but the winter season also brings higher levels of stress, according to one university researcher.

    David L. Swihart, an employee assistance coordinator with the UA Life and Work Connections, focuses his research and profession on helping people to learn how to determine their stress level and ways of reducing that stress.

    “”When you’re working at making some of these changes to lower your stress, realize it’s a process.””

    – David L. Swihart,
    employee assistance coordinator,
    UA Life and Work Connections

    Swihart said one of the biggest contributors to holiday stress is the expectation that families place on one another.

    “”Families usually have a pattern, everyone is interconnected with little springs,”” he said. “”When one person gets upset and wiggles, it reverberates through all the whole family.””

    Patterns and personalities continue even after families are apart for long periods and then come back together for the holidays.

    “”The idea is to work towards not letting the family make you wiggle in your characteristic way, but in whatever part of it that you’re doing to add to the pattern, do something different,”” Swihart said. “”Hold yourself solid and be driven by your own purposes rather than what the expectations of others are.””

    Stress can come in many forms, including physical symptoms like muscle tension and mental indicators, such as difficulty concentrating, Swihart said.

    Nicolas Bobroff, a communication senior, said that when he is stressed, he has a hard time getting work done, especially this time of year.

    “”Knowing that the semester is quickly coming to an end, that I still have so much I have to do, makes me stressed out,”” Bobroff said.

    Swihart said expectations grown out of the circular relationships.

    Financially, there is an expectation to buy gifts, while culturally, there is an expectation to have big meals – both factors that contribute to stress.

    Phillip Telefus, a psychology senior, said he does not put the necessary time into school during the holiday season, which creates stress.

    “”It is really tough to concentrate on finals with home around the corner,”” he said.

    But Swihart said there are solutions.

    Being aware of how you are feeling and changing stressful factors one at a time is the best option, he said.

    “”Be deliberate about how you choose to see the season. What do I want to experience?”” he said. “”OK, I want to have some meaning. I want to have connectives with my family and kids and so this is how I am going to do it.””

    To prevent stress in students, Swihart recommends taking a close look at what their expectations for their home life will be when they return for the holiday.

    “”If you are expecting things to be the same as before you left for school, that might not be realistic,”” Swihart said. “”If you go back and expect to have no responsibilities, that may also not be true. Question what you take as normal and what you are used to expecting and analyze that more critically.””

    A technique called muscular relaxation also reduces stress. The basic idea is to train your muscles to relax through meditation, messages, hot baths or any other way you can to take a mental vacation, he said.

    “”When you’re working at making some of these changes to lower your stress, realize it’s a process,”” Swihart said. “”Cut yourself some slack and give yourself time to learn new things and eventually you will get there.””

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