Extension Connection

Extension Connection

Stop Amidst the Holiday Hustle

Photo of Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker

Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker
Extension Educator, Family Life

Since we are in the midst of the holidays, I want you to think about ways to manage and hopefully decrease your stress during this busy season. There are so many things that can cause us stress during this time of the year such as feelings of too much to do and too little time, unrealistic expectations (perceived or real), additional financial costs, lack of help/support, and for some even isolation.

To decrease stress, we must first learn to recognize stress. Our body will give us clues that sometimes we ignore and we shouldn't. Maybe you have headaches, tense muscles, or you are feeling fatigued. Stress can often alter our normal behaviors. For some, stress can cause you to want to eat and sleep more and for others less. Stop for a moment and take account of how you are feeling, then identify what you are stressed about, and create a plan to help you better handle your stress.

Eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising are always beneficial but they are often neglected when we get busy; yet, they are essential when we are stressed. Be realistic about what you can do during this season, don't over commit yourself and don't be afraid to say 'no.' Plan ahead when possible to avoid the stress of last minute and look at your to-do list and mark off the nonessential items or prioritize. Set a budget for yourself and try to adhere to it in order to decrease the stress that can come later when the bills arrive.

It is also important to take a personal timeout and regroup. Try different techniques until you find one that works for you. Some that are often beneficial include deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation/prayer. It can also be beneficial to engage in an activity that refreshes you such as reading a book, taking a bath, playing a game or sport, or exercising.

Remember what this time of year is all about. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the season and time that you have together with family and friends. If you are away from those you love or feeling lonely during this time, create new traditions and reach out to those who you know are also alone. Finally, appreciate what you do have instead of focusing on what you don't.

My office is located in the Champaign Unit and I can be reached by phone at 217.333.7672 or by e-mail at clbyers@illinois.edu. I am excited about this opportunity to learn more about the communities that I now serve and reach diverse audiences to improve the quality of life for both individuals and families.

I would like to close with telling you a little bit about me. My area of expertise is adult life and aging. I started my career working as an activity therapist on an Alzheimer's unit at the Illinois Veteran's Home in Manteno, IL. I went back to school and earned my Master's Degree in Gerontology from Eastern Illinois University and then moved to St. Louis to work for the Alzheimer's Association. While working for the Alzheimer's Association, I educated both professionals who worked with individuals with dementia and family caregivers about Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

In the summer of 2007, I was hired as an Adult Life and Aging Educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Kankakee County. Through our statewide reorganization, I most recently have been serving Grundy, Kankakee, and Will Counties as a Family Life Educator. In this role, I collaborated with community organizations to provide education to various audiences on topics across the lifespan such as brain health, managing chronic health conditions, caregiving, work life balance, and parenting.

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