Methods for managing stress over the season of holidays



Whether you struggle with holiday trauma triggers, pressure to be joyful when you don’t feel like celebrating, increased financial pressures, or temptations that threaten your plans for good health, these tips might help take the edge off.


Stress Response and the Effects of Chronic Stress

The stress response is a physiologic reaction to your perception of danger. It’s important for survival. But when the cascade of biochemical changes is repetitive, there is wear and tear that interferes with our wellbeing.

Individuals may suffer from irritability, headaches, inability to concentrate, poor memory, all of which decrease mental acuity. They may experience flushed face, cold hands and feet, palpitations, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, acid stomach, gas, muscle tension, or spasms, interfering with normal physical functioning.  Emotional effects include feeling conflicted, mood swings, insomnia, disorganization, hyper-reactivity.

Over time these may lead to digestive problems, coronary disease, chronic hypertension, decreased immune system functioning, depression, mild paranoia, inability to make decisions, forgetfulness, overindulgence in alcohol, drugs, food, and inability to function optimally.

It is these long-term effects as well as the discomfort associated with the stress response, that make it important for people to learn methods to help them manage stress.


Stress and the five levels of being

In Core Energetics, we work with five levels of being:

  • physical,
  • emotional,
  • mental,
  • the will, and
  • spiritual.

Let’s look at some signs that signal stress is wreaking havoc:


Signs of Stress Overload

  • Physical—lack of sleep, smoking, sedentary lifestyle
  • Social—embarrassment, rejection, disagreements
  • Intellectual—overload, mental stagnancy, mental fatigue
  • Emotional—unexpressed anger, repressed feelings, inability to form fulfilling relationships,
  • Spiritual—moral conflict, guilt, lack of meaning or purpose
  • Environmental—noise, poverty, climate extremes


Methods for Managing Stress

There are many and varied methods for managing stress and activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is the relaxation branch of the Autonomic Nervous System. Each individual differs in which ones work best for them depending on their style and personality.



Conscious breathing is the easiest, most portable way to manage stress.  Simply bringing attention to the breath tends to slow it down and deepen it, creating an immediate relaxation response. There are many breathing techniques that can create the relaxation response.  The more they are practiced, the more quickly the response can be induced.

One breathing technique that engages the mind is to count while breathing.  Breathe in to a count and four and breathe out to a count of four.  Experiment with making the exhalation longer than the inhalation.  Breathe in to a count of four and breathe out to a count of eight.

Eating a balanced diet that has little or no caffeine, sugar and alcohol helps support the body’s immune system and its ability to recover from stressful events.  There is a wealth of information about nutrition available that is often conflicting.  Do your research and then “listen to your gut.”  One simple guiding principle is to think about the life force content of food.  Raw fruit and vegetables are the most alive.  Chemically processed foods have the least amount of life force.

While alcohol and other recreational drugs may seem to relax you at first, they are depressants and interfere with your overall sense of wellbeing.  Getting enough restful sleep is important too.

Regular physical exercise has an immediate benefit in terms of the stress response.  The stress hormones prepare the body for action.  It follows that physical activity helps offset the adverse effects of the stress response.  Endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers are released during bouts of exercise.  They stimulate a positive immune system response.

There are many physical techniques used in Core Energetics that are specifically aimed at grounding, as well as encouraging you to surrender to your body’s natural vibrations.  This activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Talk to your CCEP or find one here.


Self-Love, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness are critical in managing stress.  This may not be an easy task for some.  Perfectionism runs very strongly in our culture.  Try these affirmations: “I love and accept myself exactly as I am.  I am human and entitled to make mistakes.” And when a mistake is made, “I am worthy of forgiveness.”

Acceptance of “what is” creates inner peace.  Look at a situation from the angle of changing what is within your control and letting go of what is not.

Acknowledge your feelings.  Even if you cannot allow them to flow in a given situation, acknowledge them for later processing.  For example, you may choose not to express anger at your boss or a customer.  However, the emotion is there.  Acknowledge it to yourself.  Later when the situation allows, you may find a way to express this without causing harmful consequences to yourself or anyone else.

Cry when you need to cry.  Find someone with whom you feel safe and allow yourself to cry.

Laughter and humor can improve your mood, giving you a different, lighter perspective of any situation.  Laughter raises the heart rate and blood pressure, and tenses muscles temporarily.  After a good laugh the heart rate and blood pressure drop and the muscles feel less tense.



Listen to your own self-talk. Discover the things you half-consciously repeat to yourself each day.  See if you can’t interrupt your repetitive negative dialogue. For example, you discover that you frequently say to yourself, “I’m always late.”   Replace this negative statement with “I find it easy to organize myself and be prompt.” Whatever we tell ourselves, reinforces it in us.

If you are involved in mentally challenging work, be sure to take movement breaks.


The Will

Examine your life from the perspective of your will.  Notice how often stressors are created because you simply want “your way.”  Notice how much of the stressors in your life are there because of the choices you make.  Make a list of the ones you can chose to eliminate.  Notice how willing you are to allow Life to happen or if you feel you must control it.  Controlling behavior can be unconscious and habitual.  Examining your patterns in this way can bring to consciousness places where you can lighten up and let go.

What would it look like to put your will in service of your heart?



Meditation is a mental/spiritual technique that has many benefits.  You can learn meditation from books, commercially produced tapes and CDs.  You can go to meditation classes.

One simple way to meditate is to close your eyes and imagine you can find your center.  Allow thoughts to quiet down as you breathe slowly into your center.  Allow your shoulders to drop and feel your sitting bones.  Imagine you are creating an inner stillness that cannot be disturbed, even in the midst of outer activity.  This has a powerful relaxing effect.  When practiced, it becomes easier to access the sense of stillness within, in various situations.

Make gratitude a habit.  When you are in the most stressful situation, see if you can find one thing for which you are grateful.    

There are so many resources out there for managing stress. But over googling can become another stressor, especially when you find conflicting information. Do your research but then stop and trust your inclination for the method that will be best for you.


This article is written by:



Kate is a senior faculty member and teaches Core Energetics internationally. She has a private Core Energetics practice, working with individuals, couples, and groups, virtually and in person in the Philadelphia region. Kate provides supervision, somatic coaching, and consultations for practitioners and leaders. Kate has a deep love for the work of Core Energetics and its ripple effect in the world.