The Dr. is in! November – Holiday Season Begins

Meet Samantha Renfree,  Samantha Renfree is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in eating disorders, trauma, substance use, body image concerns and anxiety disorders.  Samantha is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) and is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  Samantha is Health at Every Size (HAES) aligned and uses an Intuitive Eating approach in her work with clients to help individuals in all bodies along their journey of healing.

Lukin Center- Westfield Office

128 S Euclid Ave,

Westfield, NJ 07090

(908) 509-8336

November is the much-anticipated time of each year as the holidays begin to come alive. While many love the traditional aspects and the joyous pace of what occurs during this festive time, some of us find the season as stressful and depressing. Visions of warmth and happiness run head-long into too many expectations. We face overwhelming demands, from the hustle and bustle of shopping to caring for our children and elderly parents. No wonder stress and depression are common this time of year.


As we head into the holiday season, how can we handle the challenges that come our way each day? What are some ways our readers can cope with thoughts of stress and depression or feeling overwhelmed?

The holidays can be a challenging time for a variety of reasons. It is important that we check in with ourselves throughout and bring intention to the ways that we care for ourselves. It is important to tend to ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically. Implementing components into our daily experiences is a great way to build up your resilience in managing stress and feeling overwhelmed. Such things can range from listening to a podcast or music we enjoy on our commutes, reading before we go to bed or dedicating a time to connect with our friends and family, or engaging in joyful movement. Holidays can also bring up grief. If you notice that, give yourself compassion and notice the feelings that come up. When we experience overwhelming thoughts, we can begin to feel disorganized and those thoughts can get in the way of attending to what we need to do. Start with implementing components of organization to your day and week.


Any suggestions for when families get together during these days, you know how some family members can be. It can be hectic, right?

It can definitely be hectic. There are some things we can do pre, post and during these get togethers. Prior to, make a plan. Think of a time frame that works best for you to attend the event and if possible, communicate that to the family members. This way, the expectation has already been expressed and can make it easier to follow through on. Talk to our supports beforehand, let them know what kind and how they can support you. Have a few conversation topics that you can use to steer away from any topics you prefer to not engage with or shift the attention towards. Topics can include pop culture things, sports, movies/books or asking others about recent things they’ve done or vacations they may have taken. I’d also encourage taking breaks during the events. Allow yourself to step away for a minute, take some breaths, check your phone, or to ground ourselves. These things can help us regulate, be more present and navigate any emotional responses we may have. Lastly, set up a plan for after the event/the following day. It’s important to recharge after hectic events, either by doing something that helps us relax, see or call friends, watch tv, read a book or engage in joyful movement. Any of the things that help us take care of ourselves.


During the holidays, we sometimes feel pressured to do so many things from hosting parties and dinners to accumulating gifts for our family. Are there daily rituals or mindful exercises we can use to help us navigate the next two months in a way that we feel less stressed and perhaps even find enjoyment?

Be intentional and realistic about how we schedule ourselves. Of course, some demands may be out of your control when it comes to events around the holidays or what your responsibilities are. Do your best to plan, even write out the priorities for each day. Implement a daily practice of gratitude. This can be done on your own or with someone else. Note each day 3 things you are grateful for. Try not to repeat, this will challenge you to get more specific in noticing the parts of your days and lives that bring joy or connection. Each day, either in the beginning or end of the day do either a meditation, journaling exercise or emotional check-in. When things in our life become busier, we can become disconnected from how we are mentally or emotionally experiencing our days. By checking in and attuning ourselves to those components of ourselves we are able to reduce stress and increase joy!


Any other advice?

If you notice that the holidays are a more challenging time for you, reach out and get additional support! In addition, reflect on past experiences that are connected to joy around the holidays and find ways to work them into your experience!

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