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Overwhelmed? Don't Shrug It Off as Normal Holiday Stress


Wednesday, December 22, 2021   

Extra stress and the holiday season sometimes go hand in hand. But as Iowans gather for festivities, you're being reminded to take seriously any warnings that your mental wellbeing may be under duress.

From added time with family to expanding your budget, the holidays bring on a host of demands that can boost your stress level.

Emily Berry, research and referral manager for the Iowa chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said there are red flags that what you're experiencing might be more than the typical holiday stress "if you're feeling so anxious that maybe you're nauseated or getting a headache, you're really feeling down about things - so, you're being withdrawn from things you wouldn't normally be withdrawn from."

If you're breaking typical holiday patterns, such as your normal food and alcohol consumption at festivities or money spent on gifts, she said, these also could be signs your mental wellbeing needs greater focus. NAMI recommends calling the Iowa Concern line, Iowa Warm line or COVID recovery line and ask for a specialist to talk with. These resources may be especially helpful over the holidays, with appointments with therapists harder to come by.

Berry said stress often can build up during a holiday gathering. In those situations, she recommends finding someone in the room you feel you can talk things out with to reduce the tension.

"Go into another room, or step outside with someone you trust - a loved one, a parent, friend, partner - anyone like that you can just take that breath with them," she said, "and just talk about how you're feeling."

She noted that a number of Iowans still might be reeling from losing a loved one to COVID. When it comes to feelings of grief during the holidays, NAMI suggests trying to offset them with experiencing joy in the relatives that are present. Part of that can include recalling fond memories of holidays past.

Disclosure: NAMI Iowa contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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