Managing Holiday Stress

There are a lot of expectations, sentimental memories, and gatherings that accompany the holiday season. During this time of year it is important to check in and ensure you are managing potential holiday stress that can accompany the season. Give extra attention to your mental wellness during this time of year.

Many people associate the holidays with joy, socialization, rituals, and sentimental memories. But some people feel loneliness, sadness, fatigue, tension, anxiety, stress, depression, and/or a sense of loss, especially people who live with a mental health diagnosis.

It can quickly become overwhelming if you feel like you have to:

  • cram in every tradition and event to make sure the season is memorable
  • make every meal award-worthy
  • buy gifts for everyone
  • wrap every gift to look perfect
  • find the time to attend every party
  • or, wonder why you haven’t been invited to enough parties

Add in the financial burden, travel, time spent visiting friends and family members. Don’t forget about the seasonal factor that we have less sunlight. No factor in the changes in diet and routine, alcohol and substances at parties, over-commercialization, and for some, the inability to be with friends or family.

Then, there is the fact that the holidays can also be a difficult time of the year for people who have lost friends and family members. The memory of their loss can contribute to other sources of stress, loneliness, depression, and emotional pain.

All of these factors can seriously affect one’s mood, and contribute to potential holiday stress and blues.

During the season of giving, it is important that you also take time out to think about yourself and your mental health. The holidays can be very demanding, so it is important that you take measures to take care of yourself and manage the stress and other demands that comes along with the season.

Tips for managing stress during the holidays.

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings – the holidays can bring up a range of emotions from sadness, loss, frustration, anger, and that is okay. Just because it is a happy time of year, does not exclude you from feeling those emotions. Allow yourself to feel those emotions, regardless of whether they are happy or not.
  2. Take a Breather – with all of the hustle and bustle, it is important to remember to take a moment to slow down and breathe. Breathing and taking a break can greatly diminish the feeling of stress. Set aside time in your schedule to take a walk, care for yourself, and just take a break.
  3. Get Some Rest – The holidays often interrupt our routines and schedules. This often leads to a lack of sleep, which alone can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. It is important to make sure you are getting enough sleep. If you are traveling or staying up late, be sure to schedule time for yourself to rest.
  4. Plan Ahead – Stress is inevitable during this time of year, but having a plan can help you feel more in control. But, finding time for all of your holiday activities can be tricky. On top of your holiday commitments, you may also have to deal with increased traffic, especially around malls. Or you may feel extra pressure to get ahead of work so that you can take time off to travel. Creating an action plan can help to relieve stress. Write down all of the things you need to do so that you can prioritize the things that are most important. Having a thought out plan will decrease the amount of stress you feel when your schedule is busy. And, you will be less likely to forget something if you have a list.
  5. Spend Time with Supportive Friends and Family – Take this time of year to be with those who care about you and want what is best for you. Everyone’s support system looks differently, but make sure you set aside time to spend with those who genuinely support you and care for you.
  6. Budget – The holiday season can be very expensive. From buying gifts and food to traveling and entertainment, this time of year put a strain on your finances. Plan ahead and make a holiday budget. It is okay to set limits on how much you will spend on gifts, limit the amount of travel you will do, or opt for free entertainment. Because finances are one of the leading causes of stress, having a budget can greatly reduce the stress and anxiety during the holidays. If you’re worried about your spending and how it will affect you after the holidays are over, be realistic about what you can afford to spend. The sentiment behind a gift is more important than the cost. Create a budget and stick to it. Spend only what you can afford, and if you don’t have the ability to spend anything, know that it is ok.
  7. Put Yourself First – With such a huge focus during the holidays on giving, it can be easy to forget to give back to yourself. Taking care of yourself will improve your mood and make it easier for you to take care of others. Set aside some time to do things you enjoy. Find time to exercise, plan a dinner out, or just get a few minutes of fresh air. And don’t forget the importance of a regular good night’s sleep (Tip 3).
  8. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No – It’s okay to say “no,” and the more you say it, the easier it will get. Say “yes” to the events and things that you know will bring you joy. Say “no” to obligations that you know will cause you heartache and disappointment. If working a few extra hours of overtime will make you happy so you can treat your mom to her first new television in twenty years, do it. But if your neighbor that you’re not too fond of invites you to a holiday party, feel free to decline.
  9. Give Back – The holidays are often referred to as the season of giving. Take some time to volunteer or give back to your community. Doing something for someone else can give you a great sense of accomplishment while giving you an avenue to release stress.
  10. Honor Loved Ones You Have Lost – It may be difficult to celebrate the holiday season if you’ve lost someone dear to you or distance makes it difficult to spend time together. Spend this holiday season reflecting on special memories and how you will honor the person you lost by doing something meaningful in their honor. If you’re unable to spend time with loved ones, volunteer your time to a local organization where your smiling face could change someone’s day. Their smile could most certainly warm your heart.
  11. Look Forward to a New Beginning – Instead of looking back on things that may cause feelings of anxiety or depression from the past, look onto new beginnings. There is a new year coming up, so set your focus on the days ahead instead of the past. You have the power to change the future.
  12. Get Help If You Need It – do not be afraid to reach out for professional help if you need it. The holidays can be very overwhelming, and there are professionals out there to help you cope and support you through this difficult time. To see a list of professional services in your area, go to https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help
  13. Additional resources to help you through the season can be found here.

And remember, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental or behavioral health concerns, thoughts of suicide, substance use, or other emotional experiences, there is help, hope, and support. You are not alone and you can access resources for immediate safety and long-term support by calling the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line or Peer-to-Peer Warmline to talk to a mental health professional.

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