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Expert Advisory:  UAlbany's Anxiety Disorders Research Program Offers Tips to Curb Holiday Stress

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 13, 2006) -- The shopping, parties, decorating and general bustle of the holidays produces, for many, more stress than pleasure. John P. Forsyth, director of the University at Albany's Anxiety Disorders Research Program, offers the following simple tips and reminders for dealing with holiday season stress:

"Stress, anxiety, loneliness, and pain are normal facets of life, but they need not ruin lives or dampen the holiday season," said Forsyth. "The trick is to learn how to bring acceptance and compassion to yourself, your stress, your worries, and your anxieties, and to move forward with them and do what you truly care about."

  • You can choose to say "no" — To parties, get-togethers, shopping excursions, and other holiday activities. Do not over-schedule yourself. Make choices that are your own and that are consistent with your values.
  • Recognize what you have control over. — You can control your choices, your actions, decisions, plans, etc. You have very little control over thoughts, feelings, and memories that may show up from time to time, and no control over the thoughts, feelings, choices, and actions of other people around you.
  • Make time for YOU. — Be mindful of, and increase, your calming, relaxing moments—breathe deeply, drink your favorite tea, take a nap. When you feel pulled out of your life, pause and ask yourself this: What I am doing with my precious time and energy? And, is this what I want to be about, right now? If not, it's time to do something that is more vital.
  • End the tug of war with anxiety and stress. — Drop the rope, and become an observer. Practice living in the present moment. Notice when your mind is serving you well and when it is not. Your stress and old history need not be a barrier between you and the life you want to lead now.
  • Connect with your values — What do you want your life to stand for? What do you value in your life? Have the holidays become too commercial for you? Are you spending time with your friends, family and loved ones regularly? Look around at what you spend your time doing and commit to moving your life forward.
  • Watch what you are doing with your hands, feet, and mouth. — These are your actions that define what you are and, in a sense, what you care about. Are you tapping your foot impatiently? Eating too many holiday cookies? Clue in to your body language and what it may be telling you about how you think and feel.
  • Focus on the process, not just the outcome. Abandon your commitment to perfection—the party you're having, the gift you're giving, the gift you received, the outfit you're wearing, etc. Hold these lightly, and focus on the moment because that is what counts. The outcomes will take care of themselves.
  • Practice random acts of kindness. — This can be for yourself and others. Reach out to others who are in need. Do something nice for yourself, too. Focus on the process. Do things because YOU, and only you, can do them.

* Remember, lives are created one small step at a time. They are created by what you do, not by what you think or feel about what you do. You can't think your way into your life. You can't feel your way into your life. Ultimately, you need to get moving and spend time doing things that are important to you. This is what others will see about you too.

John Forsyth is available for interviews and commentary. Contact (518) 956-8150.


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