Many of us find the holidays bring as much stress as they do joy. But there are ways to ease through the season. According to a new poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 31% of Americans anticipate being more stressed this holiday season than last year, representing a 9% increase since 2021. Needless to say, working to minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays is important. There are ways to cope and even prevent the stress that accompanies the holiday season.
Below are some tips to prevent and manage holiday stress and depression:
- Acknowledge your feelings. It is normal to feel your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. It’s okay to take time to cry when feeling sad or express your feelings when stressed or overwhelmed. Journaling, daily affirmations, and practicing gratitude can help reduce stress and create a healthier habit of expressing emotions.
- Reach out. It helps to talk to a friend or family member when you feel lonely or isolated around the holidays. Reaching out to people you trust in a time of need with a text or call can help you feel like you’re not alone. You might find that the person you reached out to is experiencing similar concerns and feelings around the holidays, which can provide you, and possibly others, with the connection and support you need.
- Be realistic. We tend to put pressure on ourselves to make everything perfect and worry if things don’t go according to plan. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. Finding new ways to celebrate together can help take the pressure off and create realistic expectations.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are–even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress as well.
- Stick to a budget. Before you do your gift and food shopping for the holidays, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Don’t overextend yourself by sticking to your budget. Some alternatives to purchasing gifts are making homemade gifts, donating to a charity in someone’s name, or starting a family gift exchange.
- Plan ahead. Being prepared ahead of time can help us feel less stressed. Set aside specific days for shopping, connecting with friends and other activities. Planning your menus and writing out shopping lists are helpful. That’ll help prevent scrambling at the last minute and can alleviate the stress associated with planning and preparing for the holidays.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Family, friends, and colleagues will understand if you are unable to participate in every project or activity so it’s important to know your limits and set boundaries to protect those limits. Saying no is one of the best forms of self-care to practice and it allows you to create space in your schedule to rest and recharge.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Your best defense against stress is to maintain healthy habits. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
Try these suggestions:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Include regular physical activity in your daily routine.
- Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
- Be aware of how the information culture can produce undue stress by adjusting the time you spend on social media.
- Take a break. Making time for yourself is important when trying to manage stress. Find an activity you enjoy doing and create space in your day to do it. Spending even 15 minutes to yourself without distractions doing such things as reading a book, taking a walk, or listening to music may help clear and refresh your mind enough to help you manage the things you need to do.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical pain, having difficulty sleeping, or feeling irritable and hopeless. If these feelings persist, be sure to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to get the support you need.
Learning to recognize your triggers, as well as taking the steps to prevent and manage the stress that can accompany the holidays, can help you better manage anxiety and depression. Getting caught up in holiday tasks can not only cause distress, but also cause us to miss special moments that make the holidays memorable, so be present in those moments that are meant to be enjoyed!