A Stress Free Thanksgiving

As we prepare for The Thanksgiving holiday 2013, turkeys are being bought, with all the holiday fixings of past traditions. You can be sure Mom’s cornbread dressing will be on our plates.  A stress free Thanksgiving?   Probably not, as most of us want to make the best of the holiday with family and friends.  What would a stress free holiday look like?  Perhaps a trip to Las Vegas or the Bahamas.  No preparing the turkey ahead of time or deciding whether you will have pumpkin or pecan pie.  You wouldn’t be wondering which relative would be late for dinner or not show up. Stress free, unless your flight was delayed!

"The First Thanksgiving" (1915), by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

“The First Thanksgiving” (1915),
by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

The first Thanksgiving in 1612 lasted 3 days. There had to be plenty of food for the 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians.  They lived off the land and ocean and did not have the food industry to support them. Instead of wild turkey, they ate duck or goose.  In the New England colony they ate seafood such as clams, mussels and lobster. They ate plenty of vegetables provided by crops and gardens.  The forest provided chestnuts and walnuts. Instead of pumpkin pie they enjoyed boiled pumpkin.  Not a bad meal to feast on and to give thanks for. One of my earliest memories is my mother talking about her mother’s recipe for dressing that included apples, chestnuts, and walnuts.

As the Thanksgiving holiday is a prelude to the holiday season our stress level is on the rise and is defined differently than other times during the year. Studies range from 70 to 80 percent people feeling the stress of the holiday season.

Women are most likely to report feeling stress during the holiday season because they are multi-tasking.  Preparing the house for the holidays, preparing for meals and their everyday stress can lead to disaster.  Many women will fall into bad habits such as overeating, and indulging in too much alcohol. Increased stress often leads to a decreased immune system and by the time the holidays are over women are often exhausted.

decorated Christmas treeAs the Christmas season is around the corner work stress will increase as many families are trying to work overtime to compete with the commercialism of holiday giving.  According to Ronald Nathan, PHD, clinical professor at Albany Medical College in New York a key culprit is our own memories.  He states “When we think about the holidays, we dwell on the past and what went wrong, or we romanticize it and make it impossible to recreate.” ( Web MD, the magazine).  He counsels people to carefully examine their thoughts and expectations and not drive themselves crazy finding “the perfect gift” or planning “the perfect party.”

Here are some tips to reduce your stress during the holidays:

  • Set your priorities: Too much of anything can create stress. Prioritize your activities and do the things you enjoy.
  • Create your holiday:  If your schedules permit, plan as much as you can, from decorating to your holiday meal.
  • Live in the here and now: Don’t worry about the future or fuss about the past.
  • Stay happy and socialized:  Don’t isolate, get together with family and friends or volunteer during the holidays.

Stress is the killer of smiles somewhere in between lies balance.

Let me know what you think or ask me a question by emailing me at squiggylpc@hotmail.com.   Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Anxiety and The Fear of Flying

plane_flying_sky_610According to “Wing Tips,” February 2013, more than 53 million air travelers passed through Denver International Airport in 2012, setting an airport record. If you were one of the airline passengers, you were among a daily average of 145,633 passengers who traveled by air at DIA. When traveling, most vacation passengers are excited about their trip. They may be visiting a fun and exotic destination or simply visiting family or friends. Even business passengers have some fun. There is a population of travelers however who are plagued by the fear of flying, “aviophobia”. Research is minimal. One of the studies dates back to 1980 when two Boeing researchers found that 18.1 percent of adults in the U.S. were afraid to fly. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that 8.7 percent of Americans have a fear of flying so intense that it qualifies as a phobia or anxiety.

“Specific Phobias,” classified under anxiety disorders, is an unwarranted or irrational fear of something that poses little or minimal danger. They are recognized as phobia of animals, blood, heights, travel by airplane, being closed in and thunderstorms. These patients may worry about what they might happen if they have to confront what they are afraid of such as fainting, losing control or having a panic attack. Specific Phobias are twice as common in women as men (NIMH). Phobias may be the result of trauma, parental impact on childhood, or observing something traumatic.

Debbie’s Story

Debbie, a woman in her 40s, was healthy and fit. She had seen her primary physician 3 months ago and was given a clean bill of health. In her presenting statement, Debbie said “I am afraid to fly”. Debbie’s anxiety symptoms were initiated by the prospect of flying to Dallas to visit her mother for the holidays. As Thanksgiving 2012 approached, she feared flying even more intensely, and stated she had not flown for 2 years. She stated she had flown from Colorado Springs to St. Louis in 2010 and her plane had circled the field for nearly an hour due to thunderstorms. She also reported that the flight was unusually bumpy, the plane was full, and many of the passengers were airsick. There was no one to help as the flight attendants were strapped in their seats. They finally landed safely, but it was the last time Debbie had flown in an airplane. She reported even the thought of driving to the airport made her feel short of breath and sick to her stomach. She came for help because she recognized this fear was unreasonable and it was embarrassing. She did not want her fear of travel to interfere with her personal life or become disabling. She stated she did not want to take any form of medication while flying. Debbie was diagnosed with Specific Phobia, Situational Type.


Treatment choices for anxiety depend on the severity of the problem and the preference of the patient. Some of the treatment choices include medication such as an anti-depressant, or anti-anxiety drugs as well as psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy to change thinking patterns and behaviors that support the fears, and hypnosis. Research has shown that hypnosis is used as a complementary therapy by therapists to help eliminate phobias or reduce their strength.

In discussing a treatment plan with Debbie I suggested we use a combination of psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and hypnosis to introduce positive life changing suggestions into her sub-conscious. Consequently, Debbie was able to identify and reframe the triggers associated with her fear of flying. She successfully flew to Dallas to visit her family for the Thanksgiving holiday in 2012 and after a 6-month follow up had no recurrence of symptoms when flying.

Let me know what you think, or ask me a question by e-mailing me at squiggylpc@hotmail.com. Until next time, light and blessings to you.

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