Sewickley-based experts offer keys to enjoying stress-free holiday season

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

Although Christmas is thought of as a joyous time, for many, it also might be filled with tension and stress.

But, according to some local experts, there are several ways such feelings can be avoided.


Kim Young, owner of Body and Birth Wellness Center on Walnut Street in Sewickley, said one of those ways is hypnotherapy, which many people still think involves watching a watch go back and forth and lapsing into a state of unawareness while a hypnotist makes them “bark like a dog.”

To give people a taste of what hypnotherapy really is all about and how it can help with stress, Young is offering free sessions at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday through Christmas, when many Village stores are open later and shoppers are welcome to stop by.

During the sessions, participants will be led on a journey that involves soothing talk to help them become deeply relaxed but aware as “tensions or stress in their body melt away,” Young said.

Participants will focus on breathing techniques and learn to use imagery and positive-affirmation statements so they can “see” themselves doing or finishing tasks such as wrapping presents. They then can take on the task without thinking of all the other things they need to do, Young said.

People also can discover how their bodies tend to react when under stress, such as hunched shoulders or tightened muscles, and learn to control that response. Different types of massage also are offered at the center.

Lorianne Burgess of Ambridge, who just finished a birth hypnotherapy session using some of the same techniques, said the practice has helped her deal with not only anxiety about the birth of her second child, but with everyday stress. Although she didn't think it would help at first, she said, she sleeps better, eats healthier and has fewer aches and pains.

“It slows everything down. You take deep, calming breaths, and it's OK. It's easier to think about things. Things are more positive,” Burgess said.

Planning ahead

Sandra Lane of Sewickley, owner of Organizational Lane, LLC, said, generally speaking, “much of the holiday stress can be eliminated with some early planning and realistic expectations.”

Some of her tips include: creating a wrapping station and wrapping presents right after buying them; beginning baking as soon as possible and choosing cookies that freeze well; decorating outside when the weather is warm; and taking a photo of inside decorations and print for reference to make decorating easier the next year.

When shopping online, search the Internet for coupon codes before heading to the cyber checkout; pick out a picture you already have for holiday photo cards or take a digital one ; get your cards printed early; use your home printer to make address labels; recruit your family to help stuff and label cards; or send New Year's Eve cards instead.


Meditation is another way to deal with stress, said Tracy Tischuk, who instructs a free Sahaja meditation class at Sewickley Public Library from 11 a.m. to noon every Saturday and at several other locations around the Pittsburgh area.

Tischuk said participants will learn about the central nervous system and seven energy centers corresponding to seven nerve plexuses in the body that look after physical, mental, emotionally and spiritual well being.

Tischuk said participants learn how to nourish their energy centers when they get depleted from stress.

They will become more aware of their inner being, find imbalances, whether physical or emotional, and learn techniques for resolving those imbalances.

They also can choose to talk about their own obstacles and issues with the group.

Sahaja meditation instructions can be downloaded as video, audio-only podcasts or printable instructions by visiting

Scale back

Martha Selleck, clinical director of Samaritan Counseling Center of Western Pennsylvania in Sewickley provided some other tips for beating holiday stress.

• Make some changes, such as: giving gifts on a different day; having dinner at a different time or place; letting the children take over decorating the house, the tree, baking and food preparation; and giving yourself permission to say no.

• Ask yourself if there is some task you can let go or share this year.

• Try to focus on the here and now, not the past or other tasks that need to be done. Slow down and enjoy the taste of a Christmas cookie or the lights.

• Get enough rest and don't overindulge with food and alcohol because that increases stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties.

• Practice taking deep belly breaths throughout the day, use a mantra such as “Relax,” and let out a big belly laugh.

• Set aside grievances with family members and friends and have empathy with those who also are experiencing the stress of the holidays.

• Realize that it's OK to take time to cry and grieve for lost loved ones or those who can't be with you.

• Take a walk around the block, a hot bath, a coffee break in the middle of shopping, read, listen to music or book a massage.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.


Show commenting policy