In the latest edition of Stanford University’s Open Office Hours, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, answers reader-submitted questions on coping with stress during the holiday season. In the first of this series of videos, above, McGonigal addresses common holidays stressors and tools to close the gap between your expectations and the reality of experiencing the winter holidays as an adult. She also offers tips on evaluating research on meditation, following through on your New Year’s resolutions, and managing everyday stress in and beyond this season.
McGonigal emphasizes that some stress is healthy. She takes time to answer a high-schooler who is experiencing anxiety and self-doubt while applying to colleges, replying:
In part, what those inner experiences tell you is that you’re pursuing something that you care about. And in a way they can be a signal to you that you’re on the right track. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from one of my teachers was, if I ever felt like I wanted to run in the opposite direction from something, that was probably the best signal my body and brain could give me to head straight at it. Because that was my body and brain really noticing that this is something incredibly important to me, and that anxiety or self-doubt was a signal to pursue – not to run away or back down.
Your direct experience of going after what you want will help you realize that, not only can you handle the stress, but that you have what it takes to overcome obstacles.
Previously: Need coping tips this holiday season?, Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about willpower and tools to reach our goals, Ask Stanford Med: David Spiegel answers your questions on holiday stress and depression and Stanford health psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses how stress shapes us