Managing Stress Around the Holidays

While the holiday season can be full of fun and laughter, it can also serve as a source of stress. It’s easy to get caught up in seemingly endless to-do lists and the pressure to make everything ‘perfect’. To keep the stress to a minimum and actually enjoy this holiday season with friends and family, follow some of these simple tips. 

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. Stress and depression are common around the holidays. It’s normal to feel sadness and grief and it’s ok to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t, and shouldn’t, force yourself to be happy just because of the time of year.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community. Talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Volunteering your time or doing something to help others is also a good way to lift your spirits. It can be something as simple as dropping off a dessert at a friend’s house. 
  3. Be realistic. Things don’t have to be ‘perfect’ or look just like last year. Families change and grow leading to new traditions. Even though plans may change and look different, you can still find ways to celebrate. You may end up liking your newfound traditions even more than your old ones. 
  4. Set aside differences and grievances. Friends and family members won’t always live up to your expectations. Accept people as they are. If others get upset when things don’t go as planned, be understanding. They could be feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.
  5. Stick to a budget. As tempting as it may be, you can’t buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Before you do your shopping, set a budget and stick to it. If you have a large family, consider doing a family gift exchange, Secret Santa, or giving homemade gifts. 
  6. Plan ahead. To avoid the last minute panic that sets in as celebrations draw near, set aside days for shopping, baking, and socializing. Plan your menus in advance and make a shopping list to avoid forgetting any crucial ingredients. 
  7. Learn to say no. Friends and family will understand if you can’t participate in every single activity. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. 
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Overindulgence only adds to feelings of stress and guilt. Try these suggestions to help you stay on track:
    • Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so you don’t go overboard on unhealthy options.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Include regular physical exercise in your daily routine.
    • Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
    • Avoid excessive alcohol or tobacco use. 
  9. Take a breather. Make time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone without distractions may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress, slows your breathing, and restores inner calm. Some options to consider include: taking a walk at night and stargazing, listening to music, and reading a book. 
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. You may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If you can’t seem to shake these feelings, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Learn to recognize your stress triggers so you can combat them before you start feeling down. Even when it doesn’t always seem possible, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.