Logo showing word Bridges and Keeping you connected with small line drawing of bridge
From the Editor
Six years ago, my husband was diagnosed with a rare, incurable, neurological disease. Suddenly my role changed from wife and friend to caregiver. I grieve the loss of all that he used to be able to do and all that he was as a person. The stress has been hard to handle.

Despite this challenging health situation, life continued to go on all around me. To survive, I needed to take just one day at a time and during that day, I needed to find something to be grateful for, something that would bring some light to my day. An attitude of gratitude helps me to negotiate my day better. Love and support from family and friends is just one thing for which I am grateful.

Many people are stressed over the holidays, and with the continuing impact of Covid, that stress can be even greater: loved ones gone, employment loss, even how or if people are going to celebrate this year, may be different.

What’s stressing you? Why not try developing an attitude of gratitude to help tackle it? This issue of Bridges will introduce you to the positive effects of gratitude and provide other tips on how to better handle stress.

Happy Thanksgiving and best to you and yours,
Maria Schaertel
How Stress May Affect You
The Mayo Clinic reports that “stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can help you manage them. Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.”

Some of the bodily symptoms you may experience are headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset, and sleep problems.

Your mood may be marked by anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, feeling overwhelmed, irritability or anger, and sadness or depression.

Your behavior may include over- or under-eating, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use, social withdrawal, and exercising less often.

If you are noticing any of these symptoms, keep reading for ways to address your stress.

Gratitude Can Make You Happier
Each holiday season comes with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year. However, for many this time of year is tinged with sadness, anxiety, or depression. Certainly, major depression or a severe anxiety disorder benefits most from professional help. But what about those who just feel lost or overwhelmed or down at this time of year? Research suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it's built right into the holiday — being grateful.

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

From Harvard Health Publishing, Giving thanks can make you happier
Stress, Gratitude, and Cultural Differences
Stress impacts mental health, and our family or cultural backgrounds play a part in whether and how we recognize that connection. Regardless of the messages we each may have heard, it’s healthy to acknowledge feeling challenged and that finding ways to connect with gratitude can help alleviate some of that heaviness.

One study (Ethnic variation in gratitude and well-being, Emotion, 2020) shows that higher disposition toward gratitude was associated with higher self-esteem and with less loneliness and perceived stress across varied cultural groups.

Remembering the "Me" in Merry: Self-care strategies for this holiday season
Regularly schedule time to engage in self-care activities. Schedule self-care activities (exercise, meditation, a hobby you enjoy) at the same time each day so they become routine or set a timer or alarm to remind yourself.

Practice gratitude for the people and events in your life. This might include writing in a journal about what you appreciate in your life, or letting others know the gratitude you feel.

Engage in deep breathing or other relaxation skills. This can include listening to soothing music or engaging in an imagery exercise. You can also engage in a number of other relaxation skills.

Tune into the emotions you are experiencing. Emotions may be positive, negative, or a combination of the two. Call "time outs" for yourself and check in on your feelings. Write down your feelings in a journal.

Try to understand why you might be experiencing negative emotions. For some people, negative emotions might be related to unrealistic expectations or goals of themselves around the holidays, or from feeling overwhelmed. Readjust goals so they are specific and attainable.

Monitor your stress level. Write down your stress level in a journal at various times during the day. Take note of the situation you are in when feeling stressed. Is it around certain people? Or engaging in specific activities? Have a list of activities you can engage in to relax for a few minutes. Perhaps this is taking a walk, doing a few minutes of yoga, or watching a favorite TV show or movie.

Being present around the presents. Practice mindfulness and meditation. This can include spending a minute or two being present in your environment. Take notice of the smells, sounds, and sights of the holidays. Notice the differences between the holiday season and other times of the year. 

Take care of your physical health. Ensure adequate sleep and a nutritious diet. Develop a plan to enjoy the special foods and treats around the holidays, while balancing them with healthy eating.

So, enjoy the holidays and remember to take time to care for your own needs and emotions. Remember, as the flight attendants say as part of their safety preparations, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. This may help you more fully appreciate and find meaning this holiday season.

Don't miss Starbridge's Annual Education Conference!
Join Starbridge and experts from Novak Educational Consulting for one or both sessions:

December 2nd — "One-Size-Fits-All" Fits No One
  • Focus on Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • Presented by Katie Novak, Ed.D.
  • Hosted on Zoom from 12:30-3:30pm EST
December 9th — Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child
  • Focus on Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Presented by Lisa Bosio
  • Hosted on Zoom from 12:30-3:30pm EST
Registration Fees
        Educators or other professionals: $75/session OR $125/both sessions
        Parent or family member of child with disability: Limited scholarships available.
Please contact Jean at 585-224-7248 to request a scholarship.

TO REGISTER FOR Part 1 ONLY, click here or call 585-224-7248.

TO REGISTER FOR Part 2 ONLY, click here or call 585-224-7248.

TO REGISTER FOR BOTH SESSIONS AND TO GET THE DISCOUNTED RATE, click here for the combined event registration.

Can't attend during a school day? Recordings of each session will be made available on demand to paid registrants after the sessions.

Novak Educational Consulting is an approved sponsor with the NY State Education Department. Be sure to select the "Certificate requested" option at registration so we can provide the appropriate forms to attendees.

Additional resources