CAPS Offers Tips for Handling Holiday Stress

CAPS Offers Tips for Handling Holiday Stress
With shopping, special events and holiday travel combined with final exams, the holidays can be a stressful time for many on campus. Counseling and Psychological Services is available to help students.

While the holiday season is often a time for joy, it could also be a time of great anxiety. With shopping, special events and holiday travel combined with final exams for students this time of year, the added pressure often compounds daily challenges. This can result in emotional turmoil, depression and, in extreme circumstances, even thoughts of suicide, according to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

While everyone experiences stress differently, some common signs and symptoms of stress to watch for include:

  • Excessive procrastination and very poorly prepared work 
  • Infrequent class/work attendance with little or no work completed 
  • High levels of irritability including undue aggressive or abrasive behavior 
  • Lack of energy  
  • Marked change in personal hygiene 
  • Bizarre or strange behavior 
  • Sadness and fearfulness 
  • Sleeplessness 
  • Frequent episodes of binge eating or loss of appetite 
  • Nervousness, agitation, impaired speech or excessive fingernail biting 
  • Excessive dependency or desire to spend time with someone 
  • Inability to make decisions 

“Dealing with stress and depression can always be a challenge, and this is especially the case as we approach the holiday season when feelings of isolation and loneliness may become more pronounced, and interpersonal and family relations are sometimes strained,” says Lavada Austin, director of CAPS.

There are several things people can do to help cope with their stress:

  • Avoid unnecessary stressful situations. If you can't stand shopping in crowded malls the day after Thanksgiving, look for alternatives like online shopping from the comfort of home.  
  • Open up to others. Sometimes, stressful situations can't be avoided. In times like those it's helpful to share concerns with others to ventilate and relieve stress. Seeking out supportive individuals when times are difficult rather than withdrawing or isolating oneself is a healthy alternative.   
  • Put your health first. When people are stressed, its easy to put physical health and nutrition on the backburner rather than taking the time to make them a priority. In times of stress, it's increasingly important to make good use of leisure time, assure adequate rest, limit alcohol and avoid taking on responsibilities that can lead to over-commitment.   
  • Dont be afraid to seek help. Professional counseling is also an option. CAPS is available to provide support to students. In addition, all of the university's health insurance providers offer counseling referrals for benefits-eligible employees.  

CAPS offers free, confidential mental health-related counseling to Cal Poly Pomona students. CAPS is staffed by professional counselors and supervised graduate interns who can provide objective, non-judgmental support and guidance to students as they transition through challenges. In addition to individual counseling, students may take advantage of couples counseling, marriage and family therapy, psychological testing, and crisis intervention assistance.

CAPS also provides outreach services in the form of workshops, presentations, consultations and training for campus organizations and departments.

CAPS hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call CAPS at (909) 869-3220 or stop by the office located in the Bookstore Building (Building 66, Room 116).

All of the university's health insurance providers offer counseling referrals for benefits-eligible employees. Faculty and staff seeking a referral for professional counseling are encouraged to call the university's Employee Assistance Program at (909) 869-4551 or visit the Web site at