Overcoming Holiday Burnout

Do the holidays not seem to be as magical as they once were? Do you feel more dread than joy as you watch the holiday decorations and festivities make their re-appearance?

It is no secret that the holiday season can be both a happy and overwhelming time for everyone. However, they can be more overwhelming and difficult for those who are struggling with symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and grief.

In preparation for the holiday season, we want to give you five tips to help you avoid holiday burnout so you can be more present and engaged with the ones you love.

Tip #1: You Can Say No

It is important to be realistic in the expectations you have for yourself and others in periods of increased stress. The holidays can demand more time and money than we may really have to offer. Though it is uncomfortable, it is okay to say no and set limits on what you can/are willing to do. It is okay if you cannot realistically attend the three holiday parties you were invited to or buy a present for every house in your neighborhood.

Tip #2: Take Breaks

Having more on your holiday to-do list and a jam-packed schedule full of holiday activities naturally steals away from downtime. Be intentional about scheduling some breaks, even if it is just to watch your favorite Christmas movie.

Time with family also increases during the holiday season. While this is a fun time to reconnect with those we may not see often, it can result in conflict and boundary violations. When anxiety or frustration may start to rise, take a ten-to-fifteen-minute break or walk outside to regulate.

Tip #3: Create/Maintain Traditions

Family and personal traditions bring a lot of excitement and meaning to the holiday season. Prioritizing meaningful traditions can help you in building connections and bring you closer to the ones you love. Choose to create and maintain traditions that spark joy and excitement within you. They will likely create memories that you will lovingly reflect on even when the season is over.

Tip #4: Take Care of Yourself

As the stress of the holiday season increases, self-care can quickly decrease. Staying emotionally regulated and completing the tasks and demands of the season are going to feel impossible if you are not fully rested, providing your body with the nutrition it needs, and staying hydrated. Even taking time to exercise thirty minutes a day, can help in improving mood, increasing motivation, and decreasing potential holiday weight gain.

Tip #5: Ask for Help

The holidays are more enjoyable when surrounded by the ones you love. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask those around you for help. We do not have to do things alone and often there is someone that is ready and willing to help; we just have to ask. The professionals at Connections Family Wellness are also here to help you in managing your holiday blues. 

For additional information, you can contact us at (801) 871-5118.

We wish you a happy holiday season!

What is Emotional Dysregulation?

Every single one of us experiences and feel strong emotions, and we all use less-than-ideal ways of managing those emotions at one time or another. Being able to regulate your feelings and organize them in an appropriate and effective manner is called emotional regulation.

Emotional regulation can look like:
● Regular exercise
● Talking about your feelings with friends
● Meditation and mindfulness
● Therapy

Overall, listening to what your body and mind need and then doing it!
Emotional Dysregulation is just the opposite; it is “an inability to regularly use healthy strategies to diffuse or moderate negative emotions” (Rolston & LLoyd-Richardson, Cornell Research).

When we are unable to regulate our emotions and use healthy strategies, we turn to unhealthy strategies to help ease these emotions. Emotional dysregulation is what most often leads to self harm and suicidal ideation.

General signs of emotional dysregulation are:
● Abusing alchohol/other substances
● Avoiding or withdrawing from difficult situations
● Excessive social media use to the point of ignoring other responsibilities
● Aggression, verbally or physically
● Eating excessively

What can you do to practice emotional regulation rather than dysregulation?
It is vital that we pay attention to the thought-emotion-behavior patterns in ourselves to understand what triggers our strong emotions, as well as when it is more difficult for us to regulate the emotions. Certain scenarios can trigger a specific behavior such as eating junk food, scrolling social media, or drinking – but if we don’t connect the triggers to the thoughts, feelings, and then behaviors, we can’t effectively pinpoint the dysfunction. Taking the time to track our triggers (anytime a strong emotion is induced like anxiety, anger, sadness, etc), the emotions it evokes, and then finally the action we take because of it (or the action we want to take) can allow us to reroute the emotional dysregulation to a path that is healthier and more effective in coping.

Take the time today to start tracking your triggers, and you will find that changing the way you cope with difficult feelings can be done, and can be freeing.

For more information, visit

Managing Stress

What is Stress?
Stress refers to a psychological perception of a threat and our body’s response to it

What is the Body’s Response to Stress?
When our brain perceives that a situation is threatening, our sympathetic nervous system is automatically activated to prepare our body to deal with it. When this happens, our body releases cortisol and adrenaline, which causes our heart rate to increase, our blood vessels to constrict, our breathing to quicken, our pupils to dilate, etc. (American Psychological Association, 2018).

After our brain determines that the perceived threat is gone, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which allows our body to relax and recover (American Psychological Association,
2018). While the sympathetic nervous system can help keep us safe from a perceived threat, it can also drain our body and put us at an increased risk of developing many health problems when it is constantly being activated (American Psychological Association, 2018).

So, Should Stress Be Avoided?
Stress is unavoidable and can help us better meet challenges. Therefore, instead of trying to run
from it, we should learn effective ways to manage it. Five recommended ways to do this include:

  1. Perceive your stress as something that is helping you meet your challenge rather than something that is bad for you: according to Stanford psychologist and renowned researcher Dr. Kelly McGonigal, studies show that perceiving our stress positively
    increases courage, decreases anxiety, and keeps our blood vessels relaxed during the stress response rather than constricted (TEDx Talks, 2014). So, next time you experience
    stress, try thinking to yourself “This feeling is helping me rise to this challenge” rather than “I hate this feeling. It is hurting me and my body.”
  2. Seek social support and help others: according to Dr. McGonigal, seeking out social support and helping others cause our body to release oxytocin (TEDx Talks, 2014).
    Oxytocin is a hormone that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, keeps our blood vessels relaxed during the stress response, and helps our heart cells heal from the damage caused
    by the stress response (TEDx Talks, 2014).
  3. Spend time in nature: studies have found that spending time in nature decreases stress (Yao et al., 2021) and improves cognitive performance by relieving mental fatigue (Stevenson et al., 2018).
  4. Embrace uncertainty: studies show that feelings of uncertainty and ambiguity increase stress (Bardeen et al., 2016). According to psychologist and renowned researcher, Dr. Elissa Epel, while anticipating the worst may seem like an effective way to better prepare for it, it is harmful to our health and does not result in a better response than not anticipating it (Suttle, 2023). We can learn to tolerate uncertainty by practicing mindfulness meditation, which helps us to stay focused on the present rather than ruminating about the uncertain future (Suttle, 2023).
  1. Seek professional help: a licensed mental health professional can provide us with specific tools to manage our stress that are effective for our unique circumstances. Mental health professionals can also provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment, which can help us change unproductive thought patterns that are stress-inducing to more productive and soothing ones.

American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body.
Bardeen, J. R., Fergus, T. A., & Orcutt, H. K. (2016). Examining the specific dimensions of
distress tolerance that prospectively predict perceived stress. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy,
1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/16506073.2016.1233454
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Stress. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from
Stevenson, M. P., Schilhab, T., & Bentsen, P. (2018). Attention restoration theory II: A
systematic review to clarify attention processes affected by exposure to natural
environments. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 21(4), 227–268.
Suttle, J. (2023, February 15). Seven Ways to Have a Healthier Relationship With Stress. The
Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
TEDx Talks. (2014). How to make stress your friend. YouTube.
Yao, W., Zhang, X., & Gong, Q. (2021). The effect of exposure to the natural environment on
stress reduction: A meta-analysis. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 57, 126932.