Overwhelming Emotions: Why do I feel stress, anxiety, worry, and burnout around the holiday season?

For some people, the holidays contain an emotional bundle of memories that get triggered by smells, sounds, experiences, and even our loved ones. 

In one of our most popular videos, Beachwood Executive Director, Lynne Bryan Phipps, explains that when we experience overwhelming events earlier in life, then our whole body holds the memory of the events. 

Holiday Stress and Your Emotions: How Beachwood Session can help You to Take Care of You Around the Holidays

At Beachwood we are often asked “why are holidays so stressful?” And, “can Beachwood help me experience the holidays with less stress?”

Beachwood’s Integrative Equine Therapy horses can certainly help. Independent 3rd party data (Brown University) shows that an average of just 7 sessions helps people have a significant shift in outlook and wellbeing. The good news is that Beachwood’s horses can help when holiday stress starts to increase, especially if you want to experience the holiday celebrations differently.

Can Integrative Equine Therapy Help Me? Why do I behave the way I do when I am triggered? 

We can associate smells with that previous traumatic experience—may be even the seasonal holiday smells that are all around us like pumpkin spice, pine sap, eggnog, turkey roasting. 

Those scents can all smell good to other people and hold painful associations for us. As Bessel Van Der Kolk writes in “The Body Keeps the Score” the part of our brains that holds the memory of that experience can be triggered to feel that same fight, flight, or freeze reaction, just like when you were younger.

Why do I feel overwhelmed during the holidays?

Part of the reason for feeling overwhelmed has to do with the pattern of how you learned to get through difficult situations. Perhaps you learned to get through something overwhelming by becoming very quiet, making yourself small, holding your breath, closing your eyes, and not being seen or heard? Perhaps you learned to get through overwhelming situations by engaging with people—smiling and laughing to try to calm difficult people down? Perhaps you exhaust yourself by trying to anticipate the moods and needs of people so they don’t get angry and lash out at you?

As Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey talk about in “What Happened to You,” we hold the memories of those overwhelming and terrifying experiences in our whole bodies, long after the traumatic event is over.

At Beachwood Integrative Equine Therapy many of our clients tell us that “pushing through” is the only way they know to survive stressful situations. Those reactions are learned at a very early age.  

As children we have remarkable minds that learn how to read situations that are far beyond our age or understanding and figure out how to navigate impossible situations. It makes sense that we sometimes carry those habits of holding energy, pushing through difficult situations, and pushing ourselves to exhaustion, in order to get through the overwhelming experiences such as the holidays.

Why do the holidays feel like too much? What’s wrong with me?

Wondering why your brain is overwhelmed and it feels like you are never going to finish everything? We often double or triple our to-do lists during the holiday season. So many things to do and people to see, often in loud and crowded situations with many elements that are out of our control. 

If you felt burned-out and stressed-out before the holidays started, it seems as if the FOMO (fear of missing out) was invented to amplify the feeling.

How can I experience this holiday season differently? How can I enjoy the holidays?

Just asking the question is an important first step to noticing that what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working for you; you could do something different, and you could experience the holidays differently.

When clients come to Beachwood for their first 3 sessions around the holidays, it can be part of a resolution to do something different this year. To get some effective support in making a real change.

Beachwood Integrative Equine Therapy sessions—whether weekly sessions or a 7-session Intensive—start by helping you connect to yourself and figuring out what is really going on for you. 

Some people ask “are there any downsides to Integrative Equine Therapy?” and the answer is no.  It is possible to experience the holiday differently and noticing what brings you joy—real joy—after just a few sessions of Integrative Equine Therapy with one of Beachwood’s horses. 

Call us today at 1-877-788-4325 and start healing with horses.

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