‘Twas the season to...be stressed! Reflecting on the holidays

We’re excited to introduce a new blog series highlighting the work and insights of our Emotional Competence Trainees! Our trainees have completed EQD’s Certified Emotional Competence Specialist Training, Level 1 which teaches basic emotional competence concepts, principles and skills, and prepares trainees to teach others while also putting those skills to work in their own lives. In this series, our trainees will weigh in on navigating nitty-gritty emotional challenges, share their go-to tools, and more.

With the holiday season safely behind us, we thought we’d ask our trainees how they use their emotional skills to cope with holiday stress--and what we’d like to do better next time. A little distance goes a long way to help us think clearly about our feelings.

Shana Levy, MD, from our 2011 cohort, saw the stress coming, and set up a plan. “My goal: keep up with good self care, like exercise, reflection and time alone from the intensity, so that I could prevent feeling pulled in too many directions.” The season stayed true to its roller-coaster form, and the plan kicked into gear: “My holiday season was full of exciting new beginnings, and with those beginnings came potentially overwhelming challenges. I was reminded of the tremendous power of intense sudden feelings. When those feelings arose, I did my best to pause, calm myself, journal and seek guidance when needed. These processes helped me feel supported and loved, and prevented me from inadvertently exacerbating situations.” That’s what we like to hear!  

As Christmas rolled around, 2013 trainee Renée Georgulas was anxious about managing gift-giving expectations in her family, and her own sense of responsibility. “In an effort to step away from the commercialization of Christmas, I told my extended family that I would only be giving out my homemade truffles. It feels good to give something I have made. But this year, a key ingredient was difficult to find, and I became anxious that any new concoction would not be good enough to give as a gift. I ended up making the truffles, but with less time, and I was much more anxious.” Although the difficulty of gift-giving persisted, Renee used it as an opportunity to use her EQD skills. “I kept stepping back from the situation to assess how I felt, and what I wanted to do. I decided to give gifts only to those I wanted to and to not think about what might be expected of me by others. In the end, I felt very good about the holiday season and my decisions and actions.”

2010 trainee Portia Jackson DrPH, MPH focused on reminding her clients to practice self-awareness and take time for themselves. “We get so busy with 'doing' during this season--going to holiday parties, shopping for gifts, and trying to make others happy. I reminded them that mindfulness can help them stay calm and keep their budgets in check.” With the holidays behind us, Portia is encouraging her clients to make self-care a priority throughout the year. “My current clients are asked to consider whatever is going on in their life as they create their goals. Assuming that ‘life happens’, we come up with ideas and solutions to work around it.”

And, she’s taking her own advice to heart. “One major change for me is that I am building a monthly self-care regimen that is affordable and enjoyable. I noted that I could have taken more time off before dealing with a busy first quarter of the year, and will be mindful of that during the next holiday season. For now, my monthly self-care practice and mindfulness moments are helping me deal more effectively with stress.”

In nine months, the holiday season will be here again. Consider this the time for “off-season training,” when we can build up good self-care habits, and coast into the holidays ready for action. Thanks to our trainees who shared their experiences!

Next in the series: It’s Take-Your-Emotional-Competence-to-Work Day!

|| March 13, 2015