By Samira Vishria, LCSW
Hillsides recently adopted a new, innovative standard of care in the mental health industry called trauma-informed care (TIC) that screens and treats individuals according to how much trauma they have experienced in their lives. Part of TIC is recognizing how much stress we all face and how it impacts us.
The holidays can often bring a lot of new stressors or can enhance the stress we already experience. I notice, for example, that it is sometimes a struggle to keep up with the responsibilities I have at work and still make time for everything else (i.e. visiting family, traveling, shopping for gifts). Here are some tips to utilize throughout the holiday season to help with reducing stress or at least managing it a little better:
- Stay organized. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed this time of year, but you will feel better if you can take control of all the extra duties by making a list of all you need to do and keep it handy on your phone, in your wallet, or in your purse. This way you can check the list regularly as a reminder when you are out, and be more likely to complete the tasks.
- Find a support group. Holidays can bring up difficult memories. Acknowledging this and accepting it is the first step to dealing with it. I personally try to make sure that I have a couple good friends to talk to on the way to or from work, meet up with for dinner, or text with regularly to keep my support levels up.
- Recent research indicates that laughter releases endorphins, the brain’s “feel good” chemicals. Laughter can also stimulate the body’s circulation and help in muscle relaxation. Try to find time to be around people who make you laugh, watch a comedy, or read something funny, even if it’s just a silly holiday card.
- Massage your hand. Research has shown that applying pressure to the webbing between the thumb and the index on the back of the hand, called the Hoku spot, can reduce stress levels in the upper body. Hold the squeeze for a few minutes for the maximum benefit.
- Get some sunlight. Whether you are just sitting outside or doing an activity, sunlight can stimulate the production of serotonin, which is known as the “happiness hormone.” And since we live in California, we might as well take advantage of the sunlight we get all year round.
- Eat spicy food. Capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers, binds to pain receptors of nerve cells in our nose and mouth, creating a painful burning feeling. The pain is offset by the body’s reaction, which is to release mood-lifting endorphins. So eating spicy food, by virtue of a chain reaction, gives you a natural boost. Try kicking up the spice level with a hot curry or chili dish for your next meal the next time you’re stressing over the mountain of unwrapped presents facing you or you the news that you’ve got to fit in yet more guest at the holiday dinner table.
- Listen to music. Whatever music you enjoy, turn it up. Slower tunes – classical or mellow jazz — can help relax us while upbeat tempos can help get us motivated and feel more optimistic about the tasks ahead.
I hope these do a little good. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!
Samira Vishria is a licensed clinical social worker who has been practicing for over 10 years. Most of these years have been spent at Hillsides, first as a therapist in the residential program and now the agency training director. She has spent time growing the Trauma Informed Care initiative at Hillsides and recognizes the importance of self-care and reflection within the mental health field.