The holidays are over and a new year has begun, but you find yourself feeling more stressed than ever – and there could be many reasons why. For example, you might be feeling a bit of a financial punch after having spent extra money for things like Christmas gifts and travel expenses, have strained personal relationships, or you may be feeling discouraged for not having set or started on your new year’s resolutions just yet. Whatever the case may be, there are certain things you can do to help yourself cope with the oh so common post-holiday stress.
First and foremost, when it comes to setting (and following through on) new year’s resolutions, try to be optimistic. If you’re someone who always sets resolutions but haven’t yet for 2020, or, if you have set resolutions but find your list is too long, don’t worry. Just because you haven’t set any health-oriented goals for this new year doesn’t mean you can’t. In fact, you should be focused on making positive health-related changes year-round – from eating healthy to getting more exercise. Along with being optimistic, you also need to be realistic in the goals that you’re setting. Wanting to lose weight, for example, is one of the most common new year’s resolutions that people set for themselves. However, weight loss isn’t something that happens overnight. While it’s okay to want to lose a certain amount of weight, I instead recommend turning your focus toward what you can do to achieve that goal rather than focusing on the number itself. It’s also important that you don’t become discouraged or depressed if you don’t fully meet the goals you set, because it’s not like you can’t keep trying. Having a positive mindset is critical for not just the success in the goals you set for yourself, but also for your overall mental health as this will help to ease any of the anxious thoughts or stress you may be experiencing.
Careers are also another common source of post-holiday stress, as people often take extended time off over the holidays. Unfortunately, this means that you are likely to go return to work with a heavy workload on your desk and more e-mails than you can get through in a day. While taking time off over the holidays is a good way to give yourself a break and focus on other things, it can also be a good time to prioritize your workload so you aren’t feeling as overwhelmed when you’re back on the job. If you’re self-employed, try to prioritize the most important things that you need to get done and going through that list one by one. If you’re employed by a company and work in a team environment, have a similar discussion about prioritization with your boss and co-workers, as they are likely in the same boat and feeling just as stressed, anxious and overwhelmed by the post-holiday workload as you are.
If making these minor but important changes aren’t enough to rid those overwhelming feelings of stress or anxiety, then you may need to reach out to someone for help. While this might initially cause you to feel even more anxious, or even embarrassed, it’s important to remember that asking for help isn’t something you should be afraid of – and, as a physician, is something that I actually encourage people do if necessary. Who you reach out to is entirely up to you. For some, talking to a friend or family member can be enough, as sometimes finding others who are experiencing the same emotions you are can be enough to help and it’s a good way to exchange your ideas on different stress coping mechanisms (as long as they are healthy choices, however, and don’t include things like drug or alcohol abuse.) If you’re not comfortable speaking to someone in your inner circle, your physician is another individual you can turn to, as they will be able to offer you unbiased advice and will have a wide range of resources that can help you. In other cases, while this can be a taboo subject for many, you may even require the assistance of medication to help ease stress and anxiety – and that’s okay too. The medication that is prescribed to one person vs. another is often dependent on a few things, such as whether or not they have already been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the severity of their anxiety, as well as if they are taking other medications. There is an extremely long list of medications that can be taken to treat anxiety, including benzodiazepines, beta blockers, tricyclic (and other types of) anti-depressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (also known as SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (also known as MAOIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and even anticonvulsants. The medication that is best for you will be decided upon by your physician and or psychiatrist (if you’ve been referred to one.)
For more resources on how to better cope with stress and anxiety, visit the website of your local Canadian Mental Health Association at www.cmha.ca.