By Emily Slater, Editor-in-Chief
Winter Break is right around the corner, and with it comes the joy of the holidays. And the stresses, anxieties, and sadnesses, too. We sat down with Lone Star College-Kingwood Counselor, Judith Watson to discuss some of the tougher parts of the holiday season and how to cope.
Even though most LSC students live with their families, expectations may change over the holidays. Students may be expected to spend more time at home than they’re used to, have their ins and outs monitored to a greater degree, or become involved in more family activities than usual. These changes in expectations can bring stress and put a strain on family relations.
Sometimes, the stressor isn’t missing family, it is family. Clashing opinions, lifestyles, and beliefs can all cause stress and anxiety surrounding the holidays.
On disagreements, Watson says to “listen very carefully to what you hear from your parents and try to internally process what position they’re in and where they’re coming from, understanding that that’s their position, and then being really clear about your own. Speak honestly and openly, don’t just assume that they understand you or that you understand them.”
Sometimes, family conflicts go beyond disagreements. Sometimes a boundary must be set to preserve relationships and avoid putting great stress on all parties.
“It’s really important to know that you can say no sometimes. You want to do it with respect, of course, but give yourself permission to have a different view than the people that are there and if you know what you’re getting yourself into, prepare yourself ahead of time on how you’re going to respond to things,” said Watson on how to set boundaries.
Losing Loved Ones: Hurricane Harvey
The storm that wreaked havoc on our community months ago is still causing pain for many families. The home where Christmas festivities took place may be gone, or the special ornaments that were always on the tree may have been lost. The holidays can bring back those feelings of loss.
“Think about what’s important to you. Maybe the Christmas tree in the corner and all the ornaments are lost. But what can I get out of this this time that maybe was a family time before, can we recreate that in a way? Maybe turn some of those things into positives. What new memories can I create? What new approach can I take that will add to my enjoyment of this in the future?” said Watson about dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Watson gives students pointers on how to deal with the emotions they may be feeling after the disaster the community just faced, “Give yourself permission to feel the things you’re feeling. If you’re having these feelings of loss or even anger, that things are not the same as they were, that’s okay given the circumstances, but it doesn’t need to define who you are or what you do from here on out.”
The end of any semester can be stressful, with final grades being put in. Sometimes the grades aren’t what you wanted or expected. It can be easy to get bogged down in all the negativity.
When students are feeling stressed over grades, Watsons suggests that they “pay attention to your inner dialogue. ‘This is terrible!’ ‘What are my parents going to think?’ All those kinds of things. If you can challenge those thoughts and say, “Okay, stop. If I don’t get the grades I want, let me think about a plan to do better next semester. This is not the end of the world.’ Challenge negative self talk and try to replace it with something positive.”
Gift giving and holiday activities can be a great source of joy, but can also bring on great stress and guilt when funds are tight.
“Not having enough money or resources to give gifts you want or do anything you want to do can be a stressor. First, forgive yourself. You can only do what you can do. Think of alternatives, maybe things you can do for people, maybe a handwritten Christmas card or a kind comment, because most people have plenty of stuff anyway,” said Watson.
Not everyone gets to take a break during the holidays. Plenty of students are taking classes over the break, making the break not much of a break at all. All work and no play can be a drain, and everyone needs down time to function.
In relation to minimesters, Watson said “It’s five days a week, three hours a day for six weeks, so it’s incredibly packed. The only thing to do is focus all your attention on that during that time, but have a plan for how you can give yourself that rest and mental break you need.”
More Tips from Watson
Have a Support System: “Know who your support system is. Have a good friend or another relative to talk to, to help those stressors, not just to hold it all in.”
Make the most of your time: “Plan what you want to do to reenergize. Make a list of things you want to accomplish.”
Stay Healthy: “Stay active. Set limits on food and alcohol consumption, because sometimes that creates difficulties and guilt.”
What are your biggest holiday stressors and what do you do to deal with them? Let us know in the comments!