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Mental health doctor shares how to tackle holiday stress

Dr. Shairi Turner, chief health officer at Crisis Text Line, shares how Texans can reduce stress and enjoy the holiday season.

AUSTIN, Texas — Holidays can be the happiest times of the year, but it's no secret that many may feel overwhelmed as the holiday season approaches, whether from financial stress to loneliness or dreading a certain conversation with family.

Crisis Text Line, a national nonprofit that provides free 24/7 mental health support via text message, reported that, in Texas alone, 33.3% of residents who texted Crisis Text Line in 2021 reached out regarding stress and anxiety.

Mental health expert and Chief Health Officer at Crisis Text Line Dr. Shairi Turner said when it comes to dealing with family, set expectations.

"If you know that a relative from one part of the country is going to have conflict coming together with another relative, set the expectation that you want the family time, the meal time to be light, to be easy, to reserve those individual conversations for, you know, some other time during the holiday," said Turner.

When conversations are taking place at holiday gatherings, Turner said it's also important to practice active listening. When people have conversations that feel challenging or like they make you want to be defensive, sometimes it helps to just reflect back to the person you're talking to about what you think you heard them say.

"There's all these things that might have us on edge. So it's important to take the time around the table with others to really embrace and be with family and friends," said Turner. 

If you're going into the holiday season and you know that attending a lot of festivities doesn't really energize you, experts say to give yourself the time and the space to do the things that you enjoy. 

"Whether that's rest, relaxation, volunteering, exercise, spending the right time with the right people is always a key," said Turner. 

Financial stress can also be one of those big stressors during the holidays. Experts suggest setting a budget in advance, such as at the beginning of the year, and save monthly so that you have enough funds at the end of the year.

"Shop in advance, shop online, take time to find those gifts that are meaningful because usually people are just touched that you thought about them and not really about the magnitude of the gift. Right? So sometimes handmade gifts and cards can be so deeply appreciated by the recipients of that," said Turner.

Busy holiday schedules can also play a major role in someone's mental health, but Turner said it's really about scheduling your time.

"So the time that you use to relax, whether that's reading, resting, spending quiet time with friends, that is equally as important to sort of your self-care and restoration and bringing a sense of calm during the holidays because everyone else's schedule can be so busy and it can impact your energy and your time. It's key to create those moments where you can fill your own cup. Refill your own cup," said Turner. 

Individuals seeking confidential support through Crisis Text Line can text HELLO to 741741 or 443-SUPPORT in WhatsApp to be connected to a live, trained volunteer Crisis Counselor or text HOLA to 741741 or 442-AYUDAME in WhatsApp for Spanish.

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