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On Holiday Stressors

As we move into the busiest part of the holiday season (or as a friend calls, “Crunch time!”), stress and–as a natural result–chronic pain are likely to amplify. We asked clinical psychologist, Dr. John Heil, from Psychological Health Roanoke, to address the underlying causes of holiday stressors and offer advice for staying positive and healthy through the the New Year.

BRPM: There are many stressors around the holidays, but what would you say are the three most pressing?

JH: Well, one thing is that the holidays add tasks, responsibilities, and decisions to an already busy life. Another is that the holidays tend to amplify positive and negative emotions. Finally, most the time we think about day to day. But when we come to major holidays or even birthdays, we tend to think in terms of last year and next year. This creates a review process which then feeds back into the amplification of emotions of what was good and what was bad in that year.

BRPM: How can we overcome this?

JH: Just to understand that this is happening and make adjustments for those things is the most important step you can take.

BRPM: So, just recognizing these stressors helps?

JH: Yes. If something’s different and you don’t know why, it’s a problem. But if something’s different and you do know why, then at least you’re better prepared to deal with it. You understand it takes a different measure.


As Dr. Heil mentioned, by simply recognizing the stressor, you shift your thinking about that stressor from problem mode to preparation mode. This clears your mind to make decisions that will drastically alliviate the stress.

If you are feeling stressed from the holidays, take some time to consider how the three holiday stressors Dr. Heil mentioned could be impacting you in a negative way. Then make a decision (or maybe more than one) to make the changes necessary so you can still find joy in the season.

Our most heartfelt Thank You to Dr. Heil for always being available to help answer our questions and offer his wisdom for living successfully despite chronic pain.

  • Team BRPM


Copyright 2015 by BRPM