Katie Weiss, a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology, is in her third year as a student therapist and clinic assistant in the school’s Professional Psychology Clinic, which is staffed by doctoral students and serves the Denver community. The clinic’s services are in high demand during the busy holiday season.
Question: What are the main areas of stress that most people face during the holidays?
Answer: The main areas of stress that most people face during the holidays are related to family. The stress comes in many forms, including financial strain, anxiety about traveling, grief around loved ones who have passed, and, probably most of all, navigating complicated family dynamics. When we go home for the holidays, other family members tend to place us into the roles we have always had in the family: the funny one, the troublemaker and so on. The holidays can bring up unresolved conflicts between family members and can also create new tensions. For example, different people may have different preferences about how to celebrate. As we grow up, we make our own traditions, which may be in conflict with how our families of origin celebrated. As we get older and find partners, rituals and beliefs may be different around celebrating. Stress may also come from being single during the holidays or not being able to be with loved ones. All of these challenges offer opportunities to face and rework issues, but this is easier said than done.
Q: What strategies are most helpful in dealing with these stresses?
A: When it comes to stress, it is important to remember to engage in self-care. Having awareness about holiday stress is a start, and it is salient to remember to take good care of yourself during times of stress. Self-care looks different for everyone. For some, self-care can be going to a yoga class or engaging in mindfulness meditation; for others it could be cooking or creative expression like art or dance. And don’t forget about rest and restoration. It is so easy to get caught up in the holiday rush and lose sight of eating properly or getting enough rest. Sleep hygiene is especially important during times of stress. Turning to social support is also a helpful strategy. Talking about hopes, expectations and disappointments directly can often take away some of the anxiety that comes with the season.
Q: What services does the clinic provide that can help with these issues?
A: In addition to talking with friends and family, it can be helpful to have a space to express and explore thoughts and feelings around holiday stress. The Professional Psychology Clinic (PPC) offers individual, couple, group and family psychotherapy. As a training clinic, the PPC employs student therapists from the Graduate School of Professional Psychology to provide these services under the supervision of licensed mental health professionals, including faculty members, graduates of the doctoral program and professionals in the community. The PPC utilizes a range of approaches based on the individual’s needs. If it feels too difficult to seek therapy during the holiday season, it can also be helpful to get this support after the holidays. Either way, the PPC can be a valuable resource in coping with stressful life issues.