November 2021
We need your help for #GivingTuesday! Click here to read more.


Among other health observances, November is Caregiver Month, a time to give a shout out to all the ways we care for people in our lives, and to acknowledge those who take on major roles in caring for others. 

It’s all too easy when focusing on others, though, to lose sight of caring for ourselves. To many of us, self-care means finding ways to deal with the extraordinary stress we’ve been living under in the last two years and more. For this special issue of PlaneTalk we searched out information on what has been clinically proven to relieve stress, to increase coping skills and resilience, and to care for ourselves - and others.

What actually works to relieve stress? 

The upcoming holiday season also brings the highest retail sales of the year in the U.S. It’s a safe bet that for 2021 the most popular holiday purchases this year will be for self-care or “anti-stress” items. 

But do those products marketed as self-care actually bring stress relief? 

Here are what scientific studies and clinical evidence have found to actually lower stress and anxiety for most people. Effective self-care includes:

  • Getting regular physical activity (anything that you enjoy);

  • Eating a balanced healthy diet, avoiding too much alcohol, sugars / carbohydrates, and fats;

  • Getting enough sleep on a regular schedule;

  • Social contacts with people you care about; and

  • Setting healthy boundaries for yourself (including taking time for yourself).

Research indicates these specific mind-body practices can make significant impact on stress levels for many people:

Other proven-helpful activities are:

So, if that special body cream with essential oils brings you joy, by all means use it - but also check out some of these activities that relieve stress reactions, lower anxiety, relax over-stressed bodies, and cultivate resilience. 

Handling family-related stress

Holiday celebrations themselves can bring peak stress. In a 2016 survey by the American Psychological Association, nearly 40% of the people responding said their stress goes up in this season. A study done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shows that 64% of people with mental illness actually report that holidays make their conditions worse.

This season is frequently associated with increased family time or large gatherings with relatives. While pleasant on paper, trying to have an ideal family holiday can actually be a heavy source of stress (and create rocky family relationships). Mary Foston-English, a counselor at the Stanford Faculty Staff Help Center, notes that expectations may be elevated during the holiday season due to specific sets of assumptions, rituals, and standards. For instance, the belief that “everything has to be perfect” can place stress on an entire family and create tension between family members when things do not go as planned.

Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of NAMI, reminds us that we do indeed have a choice during the holiday season. We do not necessarily have to run through countless family traditions and events that may ultimately be exhausting. He suggested that simply drawing up a pro and con list of various holiday traditions can highlight what is truly worth doing, and force the question: “Why am I doing things that make me miserable?” 

In this global pandemic, we all need to consider infection risk as part of those pros and cons, too. If a particular activity holds a lot of happy meaning, but might be too risky for some members of your family or social circle, brainstorm to find creative ways to modify it while still keeping the most enjoyable aspects.

Some suggestions and tips for managing stressful family situations during the holidays include:

  • Identify difficult or inflammatory subjects to avoid discussing with relatives

  • Establish and set healthy boundaries for yourself around family – Don’t be afraid to say “no”

  • Pace yourself by setting limits and planning ahead; don’t overdo the holiday festivities and itinerary

  • Set some alone time aside for yourself to do activities you enjoy and recharge

The holiday season can be tense and filled with pressure. Family relationships are complex and filled with layers. It may not always be possible to have a “perfect”, stress-free season, but there are still so many opportunities for joy. Remember that it is possible to take some control over the holidays instead of letting them control you, and that you are not entirely at the mercy of family traditions. Changing your outlook and planning ahead can help beat holiday stress, and give you a peace of mind.

Work and self-care balance

It can be challenging to maintain healthy boundaries around work-life balance, especially while working from home and juggling family care. Not to mention, we are living in a pandemic! The lines begin to blur when your work computer is in the same place you pay your bills or correspond with family and friends. What do you do when the stress feels like too much?

It is important to recognize when you are feeling stress related to work or caregiving and find  ways to manage that stress before it evolves into burnout. 

The Mayo Clinic points out that those feeling the stress of burnout can exhibit a number of symptoms such as irritability towards co-workers or clients, low energy, trouble concentrating, and a lack of satisfaction from achievements. The CDC highlights other reasons we might be feeling the burn as well: guilt for not being on the frontline, changes to your workload or uncertainty about the future. 

To counter burnout listen to your body and mind. Learn to recognize when you’ve reached your limit and make it a priority to step back and take a breath. Create some strategies that can help you during times of stress. The CDC recommends connecting with the people you care about in your life. Reach out as much as you can and let someone know how you are feeling. 

The holidays are right around the corner. The best gift you can give yourself is self love and self care. This can be in the form of learning to cope with and manage those feelings of stress and burnout. Vanessa Bohns, ILR School Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, recommends setting some serious boundaries and prioritizing downtime. Try setting up a routine such as not working nights or weekends. Professor Boehns also reminds us to take breaks. It can be easy to zone into your work, so make sure to stop for tea breaks, a stretch, or to walk the dog during the day to reset. 


May these suggestions help us all to take better care of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities in these stressful times.

PlaneTree Health Library staff and Board of Directors

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and #GivingTuesday. Your support makes a difference. Be a part of something big this November!

On November 30th, join the worldwide movement and give - whether you give your time, your voice, or a donation, the idea is simple. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday comes on the heels of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy. When everyone is out shopping join us in making a positive difference in our community.

With your help, we can raise more funds to support the library and our mission to provide accurate, trustworthy, and free health and medical information. #GivingTuesday is about ordinary people coming together doing extraordinary things – and we need your help.
  • Share your voice – You can share your voice by letting your networks know that you support and value PlaneTree Health Library this #GivingTuesday. Follow our Facebook page or connect with us on social media @PlanetreeLib and use the hashtag #LibraryLove to let us know why you support public libraries and how you’ll be participating on #GivingTuesday this year.
  • Donate – You can make a gift to the library that will allow us to continue to provide trustworthy and accurate patient and consumer health information  and help us reach more people in underserved parts of the community.
Together we'll bring about real positive change!
Facebook Facebook
Twitter Twitter
Website Website

Support our health information services!

Our independent, noncommercial services exist through the generosity of individuals who value the trustworthy, free health and medical information we provide. If our resources have enabled you to make wiser self-care choices or more informed medical decisions, please help us by supporting our work.

Dear Non-subscriber:  We invite you to become a subscriber. We will never sell or share your email address, and rarely send you anything other than PlaneTalk's 10 issues each year.  

PlaneTree Health Library is not responsible for the content on web sites accessed from our newsletter. Each originating organization has sole responsibility for its web pages. Health and medical information accessed through our newsletter is not intended to replace or substitute for the advice or instruction of a health care professional. Please discuss the information with your health care providers.

Copyright © 2021 Planetree Health Library, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp