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Managing Stress Over the Holidays

The most wonderful time of the year is often also the most stressful time of the year. There are many stressors that can appear over the holidays including social gatherings, family gatherings, financial stress, and loneliness or isolation. It’s common that these stressors pile up and over whelm us, causing us to reach an emotional breaking point. This emotional breaking point can look different for everyone, but regardless of how it hits you, it’s important to have the right tools to be able to take care of yourself when you’re feeling distressed.

There are several different techniques and exercises you can do when you are in a state of anxiety, stress, or emotional pain. These techniques are rooted in dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT). The main goal of DBT is to allow you to become accepting of intense emotions and learn how to manage them so they don’t interfere with your day-to-day functioning. Let’s take a look at how you can manage emotional distress over the holidays!


No, this subtitle was not a typo! In DBT, a common way to manage emotional distress is by remembering the acronym “TIPPS.” This exercise is perfect for when you feel like you have reached your breaking point, or are having a “last straw” moment. TIPPS stands for temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing, and paired muscle relaxation.


When we feel emotionally distressed, it’s normal for our body temperatures to rise to make us feel hot and agitated. To combat this, try splashing your face with cold water, running cold water on a small towel and placing it on your forehead or neck, or rubbing an ice cube on your pulse points (the most common are your wrist and neck).

Intense Exercise

Engaging in at least 20 minutes of exercise can help reduce emotional distress significantly. This doesn’t mean you’d need to get in the car and hit the gym; you could stand and do some jumping jacks, go for a fast walk around the block and back, jog on the spot, do some push-ups, or any exercise that you feel will increase your heart rate and provide some endorphins. The increased oxygen flow that results from exercise will lower your stress levels and provide you with a clear mind.

Paced Breathing

There are many breathing techniques you can use, but if you cannot think of one, pick an amount of time and practice box breathing. You can do this for 4-7 seconds for each interval. Start by inhaling for 4-7 seconds, holding your breath for 4-7 seconds, and then dramatically exhaling for 4-7 seconds. Do this multiple times until you feel your emotional state begin to calm.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is the practice of focusing on different muscle groups in your body, one at a time and tensing then releasing the muscle. The act of purposefully tensing and then releasing your muscle helps send signals of relaxation to your brain. This muscle activity paired with other TIPP exercises will help further your body into a state of relaxation.

No matter what the reason, emotional distress can come on strong and come on quickly. These breaking points can last long after the holidays are over, so having the right tools to manage these moments will help you live a more fulfilling life. If you want to learn more about managing stress and emotional regulation, our team at The Wise Self is ready to help you. We have many experienced practitioners who specialize in anxiety, emotion regulation, stress management, and more. Contact us to book your free 15-minute consultation today!



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