How to handle Holiday stress

Published: Dec. 24, 2019 at 6:01 PM EST
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While it's supposed to be a time of peace and joy, experts say the holiday season can also trigger real mental and physical stress.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Donna Rockwell says, blame it on your brain.

"The more we get ramped up around the holiday season, the more our neurons are firing so fast, because our amygdala is engaged, that's the fight or flight response," says Dr. Rockwell. "If you don't get your Christmas list done, you're going to go into full amygdala."

The result is a chain reaction that pumps stress hormones into our body, leaving us feeling even worse.

Dr. Rockwell says if you feel it happening, stop, and focus on your five senses.

"What do I smell? What do I hear? What do I touch? What do I see? So, if you can come back to those things. It stops the thought pattern."

The pause is enough to help reset your brain.

"It's really important to pause. At many times during the day. And, especially at the holiday season. So, you can enjoy it. So, you're not coming from your fight or flight response."

Over-scheduling is a common trigger for stress.

"People make the mistake of trying to cram too much in. This party, this party. Going to this event. Having to go shopping. Getting this for the refrigerator and we can be so spent at the end of that. That we don't even enjoy the holidays."

Her advice? Slow down, do less, so you can enjoy more. And if you don't get to everything on your to-do list...

"Forget about it! It doesn't matter. What matter is that we are all together and enjoying this precious time."

Copyright 2019 NBC and WILX. All rights reserved.

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