It’s Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial beginning of summer. It can represent carefree days, BBQ’s, sun, the beach and gatherings of family and friends. But Memorial Day weekend can also include holiday stressors such as traffic, crowds, bad weather, food gone bad, high expectations, conflict and tension and loneliness. And, although it’s a holiday for many, there are also many who will be working.
DBT teaches a variety of skills to manage stressful times. These are a few strategies that you can use to deal with Memorial Day stressors.
Acceptance: Problems, daily hassles, loneliness and unmet expectations happen to all of us. Life is imperfect no matter who or where you are (bad weather and arguments can happen even on a yacht in the Carribean). Responding to your problems, instead of sticking your head in the sand keeps stress and anxiety from building. Sometimes you have to make a conscious choice to accept that your plans and expectations have gone awry.
Relax: Like acceptance, sometimes relaxation has to be a conscious choice. If you’re beginning the weekend after a pressured week at work, you may need to actively focus on relaxation. This is especially true if your weekend starts with hassles and problems—say a traffic jam, broken washing machine or rain storm—that interfere with your original plans. A few quiet moments of deep breathing or muscle relaxation can help you release pent up stress and roll with problems that crop up.
Exercise: Exercise during times of stress is helpful for multiple reasons. It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed because the weather isn’t cooperating with your plans or you’re over-scheduled. Stress triggers a response in the body that gears the body up for action. Exercise is a release for the pent up nervous energy from stress. You may also have heard about endorphins, chemicals released during exercise that improve mood. It never hurts to approach the world in a better mood during times of stress.
Balance Your Eating: Rather than use the weekend as an excuse for overeating and eating unhealthy foods, focus on keeping your eating balanced. Although a holiday weekend is probably not when you want to focus on your health, obesity, heart disease and diabetes are major health problems in America today. There are a wide variety of strategies, from eating healthy foods before going to a BBQ to improving your knowledge of the nutrition of the foods you’re likely to encounter. You can allow yourself a few indulgences and still maintain a healthy balance.
Let Go of Your Worries: Whether you’re bringing troubled thoughts from the work week into the weekend or are anxious about the plans you’ve made over the weekend, unnecessary worries are sure to interfere with relaxed or happy times. If you frequently worry about things that you cannot change, try to catch yourself worrying, acknowledge that you’re concerned or bothered and then tell yourself to let your worries go.
Do something for yourself: You may do a lot of planning and preparing for everyone else to make it a good weekend or you may feel left out of all the festivities you see going on around you. Plan something into every day of the weekend that you enjoy doing. Make it a priority.
Photo by Phil Gwinn, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.