Coping With Stress During the Holidays

Monday, December 6, 2021

A Message from Jessica Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Nurse Liaison 

Holidays may sometimes bring as much stress as they do joy. Stress is defined as the body’s response to the demands of everyday living and is the underlying cause of 60% of all human illness and disease. The demands of the season — shopping, holiday parties and social obligations, houseguests and relatives — are all potential stressors. Alongside this, feelings of loneliness and isolation are also common around the holidays.

Prolonged, high levels of stress may contribute to health problems, including headaches, high blood pressure, digestive issues, anxiety and depression.

While there is no magic pill to reduce or eliminate stress, there are several ways we can learn to manage the stress in our lives and maintain good mental health during the holiday season.

Know your limits

Budgeting time and money can be key to creating happy holidays. To avoid a busy schedule that may have you feeling overwhelmed, learn to say no to some invitations. In cases where you can’t, try to find something else that can come off your calendar, so you don’t overextend yourself.

Financial pressures can also cause stress during and after the holidays. Set a realistic budget and stick to it. If money is tight, find low- and no-cost ways to show appreciation for the people in your life.

Give yourself a break

While focusing on others, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. If you feel tension or worry building up, spend a little time focused on something you enjoy about the season, such as watching a movie, enjoying a cup of cocoa or checking out neighborhood decorations. Giving yourself even 15 minutes to unwind may help you recharge and feel better.

Count your blessings

Find time and creative ways to focus on things you are grateful for. For example, instead of letting a long line at a store feel like a hassle, use the wait time as an opportunity to reflect on the good things that have already happened that day. Research has shown that a focus on gratitude can help to reduce stress.

Don’t abandon good habits

A healthy lifestyle may also help you make it through the holiday rush. Try to stick to your normal sleep schedule, get regular exercise, eat nutrient-rich meals and be cautious about how often and how much you indulge.

Access your health benefits

If you continue to struggle, consider talking to your health care provider or accessing the several resources Valencia has available for you:

Virtual Behavioral Health Visits
If you are enrolled in one of Valencia’s UnitedHealthcare (UHC) medical plans, several options are available by logging into and selecting a provider based upon specialty, availability, and coverage.

Sanvello Behavioral Health App
The Sanvello app offers clinical techniques to help dial down the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression — anytime. This app provides coping tools such as meditation exercises, guided journey techniques, setting mental health goals, and even community chat groups. Connect with powerful tools that are there for you right as symptoms come up. The Sanvello Behavioral Health app is a free app for everyone, but employees on Valencia’s UHC medical plans receive a free premium upgrade by selecting “upgrade through insurance” and selecting UnitedHealthcare when you are registering your account. Download the app here.

Talkspace is another virtual behavioral health platform that offers you text messaging capability with a dedicated therapist from your phone or desktop — without an appointment. Copayments, deductibles and/or coinsurance may apply depending on your specific enrollment in Valencia’s UHC medical plans. For more details, including how to register, click here.

Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Valencia College’s Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to full-time employees, their dependents and members of their household to help address mental health issues, as well as provide guidance in financial or legal concerns. This benefit allows you to receive six free counseling sessions a year in addition to other benefits. You don’t have to be on our health plan; you just need to be a full-time employee or household member. Call 866-248-4094 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) and inform them you are an employee of Valencia to be put in touch with a clinician, counselor, mediator, lawyer or financial adviser who could help change your life for the better. You may also log on to and use the access code: Valencia. Optum EAP provides confidential, short-term counseling at no cost to the eligible employee. For an EAP flyer, click here.

For part-time employees, Optum is offering a free emotional support help line. This help line provides access to specially trained mental health specialists. Optum’s public toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for as long as necessary during the pandemic. This service is free of charge and open to anyone. Specially trained Optum mental health specialists help people manage their stress and anxiety so they can continue to address their everyday needs. Callers may also receive referrals to community resources to help them with specific concerns, including financial and legal matters.

For questions on the resources above, clarification on UnitedHealthcare benefits or which resource is right for you, please contact me at or 407-866-8134.

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