Dealing with Stress during the Holidays

Dealing with Stress during the Holidays

With the holiday season fast approaching do you feel prepared for it? Or are you dreading it? 2020 gave many the “out” from the stress and worry that often accompany the holiday season. Last year, we couldn’t celebrate together and didn’t have to worry about getting the house ready, dressing everyone up in his/her perfect outfit (sweatpants were acceptable for any function), and all that pressure seemed to not be there. The focus was on COVID 19 and keeping each other safe, not planning the perfect holiday season. This year, we find ourselves somewhat back to the old grind and gearing up for what can be a “rebirth” of the holiday season in some respects. 

This year, we can make plans to celebrate and have in-person gatherings with all the fixings and joy. Or can we? The holiday season means different things to different people. Sometimes all that worry about finding the perfect gift, planning the perfect dinner, or keeping the peace at a family gathering can be downright exhausting and a major source of anxiety. So what can you do to “deal” with the holidays?

The Mayo Clinic Staff published some great guidelines to help you manage your mental health during this overwhelming time of year¹

1.- Acknowledge your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

2.- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious, or other social events or communities. Many have websites, online support groups, social media sites, or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship.

3.- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to new ones. Meet virtually on a video call if you can’t be together. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.

4.- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.

5.- Stick to a budget.  Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Read that again. How much can you afford to spend, not how much you want to spend. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts that you’ll be paying for an extended period of time.

6.- Plan ahead.  Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and family, and other activities. Consider if you can shop online rather than fighting crowds at stores. Plan your menus and then make your food list. That will help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure you line up meal prep and clean up.  

7.- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.  

8.- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:

Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks.

Eat healthy meals

– Get plenty of sleep

– Include regular physical activity in your daily routine.

Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.

Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol, and drug use.

Be aware of how the information culture can produce undue stress. Adjust the time you spend reading news and social media as you see fit. 

9.- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

10.- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, 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 these feelings persist, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional for assistance.    

Remember, boundaries and realistic expectations can make this holiday season the best one yet. 

 Breathe and get your peppermint hot chocolate on. Enjoy!!