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!”

Jay of All Trades

Last month, we celebrated LGBT History Month, so what better time to highlight one of Pace’s—not to mention the country’s—most prominent leaders in LGBTQ studies and the gay civil rights movement.

At Pace, we have our very own LGBTQ all-star, and her name is Karla Jay, PhD. Since 1975, the Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies has founded and taught numerous courses in lesbian and gay studies, women’s studies, and literature, and has received several awards including the Distinguished Faculty Award, Diversity Leadership Award, and Kenan Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Last week, Jay moderated the Center for Community Action and Research’s Common Hour Convo: When Will the Hate Stop? A Student Discussion on LGBTQ-based Violence, where she urged students to take action.

“You can’t sit around and feel sad,” she said. “You need to think about the people who are here.”

On December 1, Jay and world-renowned civil rights activist and Gay TV USA show host Ann Northrop will raise HIV/AIDS Awareness and address the past and present battles for equality within the gay and lesbian civil rights movement and feminist movement in America on the NYC Campus as part of World AIDS Day.

And this merely reflects Jay’s work on-campus. What she has done for the movement outside of Pace has changed all of our lives.

When gay activists founded the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Jay was a member. She helped form the Women’s Caucus of GLF, also known as The Lavender Menace, which sought inclusion for lesbians in the feminist movement. Their 1970 takeover of the Second Congress to Unite Women is considered a turning point in recognizing lesbianism in the women’s movement.

Additionally, Jay has published more than a dozen books that have touched the lives of millions. Her first book, Out of the Closet: Voices of Gay Liberation, which has been called “a pioneering anthology that had a profound impact in its first incarnation in 1972,” remains in print, as does her recent memoir on the early years of the women’s and gay liberation movement, Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation, which Gloria Steinem described “as irresistible as a novel, but as credible, humorous, and unexpected as real life.”Karla Jay

An inspiration to many, Jay has been named twice as Grand Marshal of the Stonewall Pride Parade.

But all of this recognition did not come without its share of struggle. Jay, who has been threatened both verbally and physically, will not sit back.

“The way I look at it, if I stop doing what I’m doing because I’m afraid, then they’ve won,” she said. “Women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, disability; it’s a kind of unstoppable quest for equality.”

Jay, who lost her sight a few years ago, has now begun a new battle. “I’m a student and I’m studying Braille. I’m learning to be blind.”

Jay notes that she is now a part of, “another invisible community,” but she won’t stand for it. With proposed cuts to the state budget impacting the National Federation of the Blind’s NFB-Newsline, an audio newspaper services that provides the blind and visually impaired with more than 300 newspapers and magazines, Jay is speaking out on behalf of people with disabilities, lobbying Albany to ensure everyone has access to these resources.

Karla Jay“It takes a lot more than losing my sight to stop me,” Jay says.