4 Easy Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress

Balancing your commitments can be a struggle on any day of the year. But add in the demands of the holidays, and it can quickly seem impossible. The Counseling Center offers some simple ways to approach the season’s to-dos.

Holiday StressIt’s early November, and the 2010 holiday season is already upon us. Decorations are up and your precious winter weekends are nearly booked solid. The clock is ticking down to the end of the semester and you still have a million things to do. Finding the right balance between all of your commitments on any day of the year can be a struggle. But add in the extra demands the holidays can bring, and it can quickly seem impossible. Counseling Center Director Richard Shadick, PhD, offers a few simple ways to approach the season’s to-dos to help us enjoy this much-anticipated time of the year.

  1. Reevaluate your expectations.
    We’re all guilty of thinking that the holidays need to be fun, exciting, and happy,” says Shadick. “So if we’re not feeling happy, excited, or having fun, we believe there must be something wrong.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at all we need and want to do over the next several weeks—the parties, the gifts, and our responsibilities at work, he continues. “We tell ourselves we can get it all done by the end of the calendar year—completing deadline-driven assignments, shopping for gifts, entertaining at home, and attending parties for work, family and friends. By having realistic expectations of ourselves, of the holidays, and what we can reasonably accomplish at this time of year, we can alleviate some of our stress.”
  2. Stick close to your regular eating and exercise routine—as much as possible.
    Holiday parties are the perfect place to overindulge. “At parties there are lots of unhealthy foods and usually alcohol. If you find yourself going to several parties, and you’re already a busy professional, you won’t get a chance to eat as many balanced meals or exercise as often as your body needs,” says Shadick. His advice: Go easy on unhealthy foods, limit your alcohol, stick to a regular exercise routine, and get adequate sleep. Another idea? “Instead of shopping for holiday gifts, use your lunch hour to exercise,” he recommends. Walk around the block, the parking garage, or the building.
  3. Take a serious look at your schedule and commit to making some hard—but meaningful—decisions regarding your personal time.
    Is your stack of holiday invitations stressing you out? (By the way, even Emily Post wrote that no one is obligated to accept every invitation!) “Accept only the ones that mean the most to you and politely decline the others,” Shadick says. Are you worried about meeting your deadlines at work? Shadick advises to prioritize your work goals and deadlines to determine which ones must get done now and which ones can wait until after the holiday season.
  4. Integrate small stress-management techniques into your everyday activities.
    A five-minute break can make a tremendous difference in the rest of your day. “Take a few moments of quiet time in your office,” he says. Close your door, shut your eyes, and breathe deep. And remember Pace’s Employee Assistance Program, which includes 24/7 phones support, referrals for free counseling, the Healthy Rewards Program, and more. He also recommends keeping a journal to track what’s causing you stress. “Write down your thoughts and feelings about whatever it is, and your reaction,” he says. “After a few weeks’ time, you’ll see what your trigger points are, so you’re prepared—for next year’s holiday season!”

Analyze This

This year, Pace’s Counseling Center Internship Program attracted a record number of applicants—beating out other top-notch programs such as Stanford and University of Texas. Learn more about this highly competitive and highly rewarding program for aspiring doctoral students.

Rorschach Image

It doesn’t take years of analysis to understand why Pace’s Pre-doctoral Internship Program for aspiring psychologists is such a hit. The only one of its kind in the New York Metropolitan Area, the unique program exposes interns to the wide variety of functions a psychologist can perform, including individual and group psychotherapy and multicultural competency. Launched in 1984, it is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and each year accepts only four interns from a pool of more than 150 applicants. This year, it received more applications than any other APA-accredited counseling center internship program in the United States and Canada.

Molly Grimes, PsyD, Assistant Director and Training Director for the Counseling Center, and a former intern in the program herself, explains why: “The interns have a really full training experience. They get a lot of really solid clinical training, meaning that they do what other staff members in the Counseling Center do: individual therapy, group therapy, outreach, and crisis intervention. At the same time they take on a series of training seminars on consultation and outreach, psychological testing, and multicultural competencies, as well as receiving many hours of individual supervision.”

That individualized attention is one of the real assets of the program, notes Grimes, who adds that the University is incredibly dedicated to the training process and able to offer many more training opportunities than fee-for-service sites, for example. Multicultural competency is another area of excellence for the Pace program. While all sites are required to examine multicultural issues, Pace focuses on this area in several specific ways. In addition to including multicultural issues in all six training seminars, one of those seminars focuses on multicultural competency. Interns also focus a great deal of their consultation and outreach work on issues specific to Pace’s diverse student body and are involved in grant-funded work at the Counseling Center regarding suicide prevention with students from culturally diverse backgrounds.

The program is a win-win for both the interns and the Pace counseling staff, who constantly strive to improve student wellness and provide the community with the best possible service. PsyD, PhD, and EdD candidates apply to the program from schools around the nation, many bringing with them at least three to five years of clinical experience already, as well as research backgrounds and understanding in unique fields.

“I’ve been surprised at how much expertise these students have, even prior to starting with us,” says Grimes. “Many come in with an advanced level of expertise in a particular area that we don’t have ourselves.” In fact one of the recent interns has already become a leader in the field of Filipino mental health, publishing two books since his time in the program and currently touring the United States.

The program is currently finishing its reaccreditation process with the APA (a process that occurs every few years) but with 25 years of accreditation under its belt, it has received great feedback to date. It is also getting ready to welcome its new group of interns, who start September 1. In addition to the pre-doctoral internships, the program offers an externship program for graduate students who have not yet completed their academic training as well as an Undergraduate Summer Internship Program open to students nationwide (also highly competitive) who are interested in pursuing a career or advanced degree in psychology.  “This is a really unique program,” says Grimes. “To my knowledge, there is no other counseling center training program available to undergraduate students. They get training in clinical issues, assessment, and professional issues and help us with our outreach and research efforts.”

And outreach and education is what the program is all about: responding to the needs of the community, educating students about mental health and wellness issues, and destigmatizing the concept of counseling—as well as preparing the next generation of committed, caring, leaders in the field to do the same.

Click here to learn more about the program and other counseling center services.